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Sermons on the Apostle*' Greed 

Translated and Edited ay 
John Holder* 

" What a marvelous preacher this man is! " 
is likely to be the reader's first reaction to 
this book. But it will not be i!: last. The 
last will rather be, " I must be a more faith- 
ful follower of Christ! " That is how great a 
preacher Brunner is. 

Such eloquent persuasiveness is all the more 
striking, coming as it does from a man 
whom every student knows as one of the 
world's great theologians. But the sermons, 
readily understandable as they are, are not 
watered down for popular consumption. 
They delve, one after another, into the 
deepest cruxes of the faith for example, 
the formidable question of how, in the face 
of all the misery of mankind, our God can 
be a God of love and at the same time be 

The sermons are, in fact, Brunner's theol- 
ogy preached, Brunner's dogmatics in all 
their searching profundity stripped of spe- 
cialized terminology and stated in simple 
language. And, being this, the sermons dem- 
onstrate the fact, sometimes overlooked, 
that theology is not the exclusive domain of 
theologians. It is not unrelated to the world 
but is urgently the concern of every Chris- 
tian in the pew. In other words, the cleft be- 
tween theology and homiletics is not deep 
after all not with spokesmen like Brunner 
to throw a bridge between them. 
(Continued on back flap) 

20-0304 $3.00 



23& B89i 61-04045 

Brunner $3 .00 

I believe in the living God* 

I Believe in the Living God 

Books by 

Published by The Westminster Press 

I Believe in the Living God 
The Letter to the Romans 

Faith, Hope, and Love 
The Great Invitation, and Other Sermons 

Eternal Hope 
The Misunderstanding of the Church 

The Christian Doctrine of Creation and 
Redemption, Dogmatics, Vol. II 

The Scandal of Christianity 

The Christian Doctrine of God, Dogmatics, Vol. I 

Man in Revolt 

The Mediator 

The Divine Imperative 

Revelation and Reason 














Copyright MCMLXI W. L. Jenkins 

Translation of Ich glaube an den lebendigen 
Gott. Zwingli Verlag, Zurich, Switzerland, 1945 

All rights reserved no part of this book 
may be reproduced in any form without 
permission in writing from the publisher, 
except by a reviewer who wishes to quote 
brief passages in connection with a review 
in magazine or newspaper. 

Scripture quotations from the Revised Standard 
Version of the Bible are copyright, 1946 and 
1952, by the Division of Christian Education of 
the National Council of Churches, and are 
used by permission. 

Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 60-10347 














SPIRIT? 111 






I FIRST MET Emil Brunner in the fall of 1947 
when I enrolled as a student at the University of 
Zurich. That year he was offering courses of instruc- 
tion in systematic theology and homiletics, a fact 
indicative of his ability as both a profound Christian 
thinker and a popular city preacher. Brunner has 
not only gone down in church history as one of the 
most outstanding Protestant theologians since the 
Reformation; he has also paved the way in the com- 
munication of the gospel to modern man. His book 
of sermons entitled The Great Invitation already has 
influenced pulpits throughout the church in this 
country. And those who know something about con- 
temporary preaching on the Continent can recognize 
Bruiiner's influence there. Yet I do not wish to idol- 
ize any preacher; I do wish to take this opportunity 
to thank God that he has given us a man who can 
both think and preach. 

Many of us are familiar with the larger technical 
works by Brunner in the field of theology, but we 
know little about the way he applies his theology in 
the field of preaching. Because the dialectical the- 
ology came to America from Europe (I see no reason 
why we should not admit this!) in the form of mas- 
sive volumes of theology, it has thrived primarily on 
university and seminary campuses but has run into 

8 / Believe in the Living God 

some difficulty when it has tried to penetrate the par- 
ish. As a seminary student I often heard fellow Prince- 
tomans remark after almost any course that required 
us to read one or more books by Brunner, "I wish 
one could preach this theology." Perhaps this book 
of sermons on the Apostles' Creed in its English trans- 
lation will help meet this need and promote some- 
what better relations between theology and homiletics 
than existed in my days at the seminary. I hope that it 
encourages someone to explore further the questions 
on the boundary between theology and homiletics. 
Here a great service could be rendered to the church 
in America. 

Some who read this book may not be familiar with 
Brunner the theologian. They will find it a most 
valuable introduction to the main doctrines of the 
Christian faith presented in language they can under- 
stand. In these sermons, the Apostles' Creed, which 
we repeat, sometimes mechanically, at Sunday morn- 
ing worship, comes alive and shocks us with its rele- 
vance to problems all of us face: anxiety, guilt, doubt, 
suffering, and death. After one has listened to these 
sermons he feels like singing the Apostles' Creed as 
believers once sang it during the days of the Reforma- 
tion. It may also happen that this exposition of the 
creed will inspire some to dig deeper into the mean- 
ing of their faith and thereby encourage a much- 
needed dialogue between the laity and the theolo- 
gians of the church. But let me make one thing clear. 
I did not translate these sermons so that they could 

Translator's Note 9 

be used primarily as a study booklet in some com- 
fortable church group or as an interesting specimen 
of current ideas. I translated them because I trust 
that through them God may speak his word of judg- 
ment and promise to us. 

These sermons were preached originally during the 
Second World War, and some dated material that 
might have distracted the reader today has been re- 
moved at the suggestion of the publisher. Brunner 
agreed to this suggestion and co-operated fully with 
me in this slight revision of the sermons as originally 
published in German. I wish to thank both the au- 
thor and the publishers' staff for all the kind, patient 
assistance they have given me. 



THESE SERMONS, LIKE the ones already pub- 
lished in English, were preached in the Fraumimster- 
kirche, Zurich. Although their Biblical texts are 
timeless, that is, true in all times and under all cir- 
cumstances, it is my conviction that in order to reach 
the heart and mind of the present-day reader they 
must be interpreted in such a way that our time 
this time of anxiety and apprehensions must be re- 
flected in them. 

It is necessary that we be placed upon firm ground 
that does not waver even if the whole world is shaken 
at its foundation. In this age, when the bond between 
the nations of Christendom is so lamentably dis- 
rupted, it seems to me doubly necessary to remind 
ourselves of the common creed of the Christian 
churches. It is usually called the Apostles' Creed. 
Those versed in history tell us that it does not stem 
from the apostles but was composed in the first cen- 
turies after Christ. Even so, it is still a truly common 
expression of early Christendom and can therefore 
be valid as the confession of our faith in God the 
Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

Its great merit is that it points to the basic facts 
of the life of Christ; its main weakness is that it does 
not speak of these facts as the apostles did, namely, 
as facts that only those who believe in Jesus Christ 


12 / Believe in the Living God 

can know and of which only they can understand the 
meaning. In this sense, however, the Christian faith 
remains bound to it, and we like to use it as the 
shortest catechism of Christianity. This creed runs: 

I believe in God the Father Almighty, 
Maker of heaven and earth; 

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our 
Lord; who was conceived by the Holy 
Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered 
under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, 
and buried; he descended into hell; the 
third day he rose again from the dead; 
he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on 
the right hand of God the Father Al- 
mighty; from thence he shall come to 
judge the quick and the dead. 

I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy 
catholic church; the communion of 
saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resur- 
rection of the body; and the life ever- 
lasting. Amen. 

For the theologians who raise the question, How 
far are we bound by it, how far not, and in what sense 
is it imperfect? my last volume of Dogmatics, which is 
soon to appear, tries to give an answer. But the aver- 
age layman, who does not ask this question as much 
as he tries to hear through it the word of God him- 
self, may be grateful for an interpretation that takes 
account of the difference between the working of our 
minds and that of the minds of the first centuries. 
Nothing is truly accomplished by regarding all that is 

Preface 1 3 

said in the Bible or in the creed as true. True Chris- 
tian faith is not "to believe something," but to trust 
and obey the One who speaks to us in the Bible and 
through the creed, with our whole heart. 

It is the intention of these twelve sermons to show 
in what sense faith in Jesus Christ includes the facts 
to which the creed refers and to show what this be- 
lief means in our life, both individually and socially. 

May they lead many to that living faith in Jesus 
Christ, or strengthen and clarify it, and by so doing 
help to build his body as the light of the world and 
the salt of the earth within this generation, misled by 
illusions or beginning to doubt all meaning in life. 

Zurich, July, 


the Creator 

I believe in God the Father Almighty, 
Maker of heaven and earth. 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 
(Gen. 1:1.) 

He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all 
creation; for in him all things were created^ in heaven and 
on earth, visible and invisible,, whether thrones or dominions 
or principalities or authorities all things were created through 
him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things 
hold together. (Col. 1:15-17.) 

YOU ARE PERHAPS a little astonished that I am 
beginning this series of sermons on the Christian 
creed and have chosen for today a text so timeless 
and remote, when all our thoughts are imprisoned in 
the threatening events of these days. I owe you an 


iQ I Believe in the Living God 

explanation. First, it should be said that precisely in 
these days nothing is so important as this, that we 
stand fast in the faith. The storm has not yet reached 
us; we have received only a small wind from its pe- 
riphery. The really difficult times may still lie before 
us; they will be difficult even if we ourselves remain 
exempt from conflict; they would be dreadfully diffi- 
cult if we should be drawn into it. Either way, not 
only our economic but also our spiritual reserves, and 
above all our reserves of faith and love, will be re- 
quired. We must lay up reserves of faith. That means 
we will have to do everything in these days to strength- 
en ourselves out of God's Word and in prayer for 
the coming difficulties, to create, to collect heavenly 
treasures, so that we can hold out and do not fail in 
the days of greatest scarcity. As a soldier receives 
provisions before combat and checks whether he has 
everything that belongs to his equipment, so we also 
want to examine and obtain the equipment of our 
faith so that we have it when the need comes. We 
should, indeed, always do that; it is true of all days 
and even of so-called normal times that we do not 
live by bread alone but by every word from the mouth 
of God. But now we understand better than before 
how urgently necessary that is, how much faith is a 
question of existence, no, is in the last final the ques- 
tion of existence. This struggle is, indeed, really a 
war of faith. It is concerned not only with power and 
economic goods; rather, it is concerned with whether 
the proclamation of God's Word shall remain free, 

God the Creator 17 

or whether Christendom and the Christian congre- 
gation must again crawl into the catacombs because 
the powers on earth are enemies of Christendom and 
all faith in God. There can also come again for the 
church times of hunger when one may preach, read 
the Bible, and pray together only in hiding places. 
Therefore, work while it is still day! 

The second thing is this, that we, precisely when 
we reflect upon the ultimate questions of our faith, 
should come to the realization that at any time and 
also now they are the most contemporary. There 
drops from every one of the great words of the Bible 
a particularly clear light upon the events of time. 
We can understand what the issues are today only 
when we place ourselves at the highest height. We 
can recognize what God requires of us today and 
what he especially gives us today only when we re- 
flect upon the deepest foundations of our faith. He 
who wants to build a solid house must lay his founda- 
tion deep. Superficial things, of which there are in- 
deed enough, will not really be of service to us today. 
We want to build our house upon rock, upon God's 
own Word, upon Jesus Christ, and everything that 
can make God's Word great to us and Jesus Christ 
the center of our thinking and willing; that and that 
alone is now truly relevant to the times. 

So we want to allow God's Word to speak to us 
today what it says about the creation and the Creator. 
The Old Testament begins with what is the begin- 
ning of all things. As the Word of the Creator is the 

xg / Believe in the Living God 

beginning of all things, so it should also be the be- 
ginning and foundation of our faith. But so we may 
know from the outset who the Creator is and where 
we can best recognize him, the New Testament tells 
us that this Creator is none other than the God who 
has disclosed his nature and his will in Jesus Christ. 
God the Creator and God the Redeemer are one. The 
Son of God, who is the eternal Word of God, is the 
personal plan of creation, the divine model of crea- 
tion or the goal of creation. The beginning and the 
end of all things belong together. We can understand 
whither we are going only if we understand whence 
we have come, and we can understand whence we 
have come only if we understand whither we are 
going. The architect has a blueprint before he under- 
takes the construction. The goal lies before him be- 
fore he allows the first spade to break ground. In God 
the beginning and the end are one. In this blueprint 
of God, which is Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of 
God, we are included, every one of us. As God has a 
blueprint for the whole world, so he also has a blue- 
print for our life as part of the great plan. Our be- 
ginning and our destiny are in the hand of God. 

Is it not something enormous to dare to believe 
that today? What so frightens us today is that god- 
less powers are running wild. It seems as if every- 
thing has become meaningless. Everything that is 
worth-while, everything for which we have worked, 
everything that has taken mankind thousands of years 
to build up, seems at present to be threatened. Moth- 

God the Creator 19 

ing is left standing firm, and the end again seems to 
be nothingness, a life that is no longer worth living. 
Over against all this God now says to us in his Word: 
No, it is not so. What seems to be important from the 
viewpoint of the world is really not important. The 
great events of the world that frighten you are really 
not the final events. The present is not your destiny 
but only a hammer blow in God's great construction. 
You see only the foreground, which is terrifying. Keep 
your eye on the background, which is divine. The 
foreground is really small in comparison with the 
background, but it always seems larger to us because 
it is in front. To believe is to see the world's back- 
ground. The faith of creation that the Word of God 
proclaims to us is this: behold the foundation of 
everything, and behold it in Jesus Christ, the Son of 
God, the plan of the world. And then, if you really 
see that, you will no longer be frightened and no 
longer despair. Then you have faith. 

And what do we need today more than faith? That 
solid faith that everything will still turn out well. 
We as Christians who believe in the Word of God 
have a proud and divinely rooted optimism. We know 
because God has spoken to us that, although the 
great world powers would like to do whatever they 
please, God has control of all of them, that even when 
they think that they are making world history they 
are still nothing else than small chessmen who must 
move as God shifts them, that still in spite of all sorts 
of catastrophes God's world plan still goes on. 

2 o / Believe in the Living God 

But what is the goal? the end? It is by the mercy 
of God that he has revealed to us the goal and end 
of everything as plainly as the beginning. The begin- 
ning of all things is: God spoke and it was. It was a 
slow development over billions of years, but it was at 
his bidding. And the end is: it will be, though 
through long historical developments, through count- 
less catastrophes and new beginnings, but it will be: 
his Kingdom. For all that is created is created in 
him the Son. He is the divine design; he is the mean- 
ing of everything; he is the ultimate purpose and final 
goal of everything that happens. 

Let us say it in a more personal way. God created 
man in his image. He created you and me to be like 
him, to be the mirror of his spirit, his love. The 
more you allow God to look upon you and in you, the 
more like him you become. God looks at you in 
Jesus Christ, and when you allow yourself to be seen 
by God in Jesus Christ you become like him. That is 
God's grace, that he looks at you and me in Jesus 
Christ, that he does not say to us, as we sometimes 
say to a man or at least think: I do not care to see 
you. That is his whole love, his mercy, his forgive- 
ness. But it is also his will to perfect us, to cleanse 
us of all evil and to place his Holy Spirit in us. God's 
view, God's looking at us, is a creative looking. He 
wills that we at the appearance of Jesus Christ become 
like him. That is his building plan for you and me. 
Every man can reach the destiny of his creation, and 
that means his true humanity, only if he becomes like 

God the Creator 21 

God, the image according to which he was created 
and the original image of which is Jesus Christ. And 
he can reach this likeness with God only if he allows 
himself to be seen by God in Jesus Christ. That is 
our Christian world outlook. It is no world outlook 
that we make; rather, it is God's looking at us and 
our looking at God in Jesus Christ. 

In Jesus Christ we see two things: God the Father 
and ourselves as God wills to have us. That is the 
mystery of Jesus Christ, that he reveals to us these 
two things. He is therefore the first-born of all crea- 
tures. He is the goal of God's creation and he is at 
the same time the goal of our lives, the true God 
and the true man in one, the God-Man. We ought 
to be like him. 

But we know that we are not what God created us 
to be, and we know why: because we do not allow 
God to look at us and do not allow ourselves to look 
at him; because we are always making our own views; 
because we live according to our own views; because 
we also have other views of ourselves and of our fel- 
low men, and allow ourselves to be determined more 
by them than by the contemplation of God. We are 
other than what God wills to have us because we 
become godless through this looking away from 
God. With a mirror the important thing is what 
it reflects. The image in the mirror is not really in 
the mirror itself; it is outside the mirror. But the 
image in it is according to what it reflects. So we 
are. We are no longer God's images because we do 

22 / Believe in the Living God 

not reflect God's face. What, then, do we reflect? One 
can say: we reflect the world, and we reflect ourselves. 
Instead of living by looking at God, we live by our 
world views. And instead of loving God who looks 
at us in love, we love ourselves. We thereby make 
the world and ourselves gods. We do that every day 
a number of times, even though in small ways and 
without knowing what is going on. Again and again 
we are in love with ourselves and the world instead 
of loving God with our whole heart. And from this 
self-love and world-love comes all evil. From it comes 
also all the terrible godlessness that we are experienc- 
ing at present. God is abolished; and man, his race, 
his nation, his power, his reason, and his economic sys- 
tem have been made gods. This godlessness is in the 
midst of us. But do not forget that it is also our god- 
lessness. The present world crisis is the result of a long 
slow process of blood poisoning of the world. And 
there is no one who has not contributed his little drop 
of poison to it. These little drops of poison form a 
poisonous stream that then poisons the whole world 
anew. It is true that we will find the poison of god- 
lessness concentrated in certain specific places, but 
this poison has come from the whole world, even from 
you and me. We also have contributed to the total 
godlessness that has come upon us today. 

Is there, then, nothing that can be done? Is it sim- 
ply that man is just perverted and remains perverted 
and therefore must again and again go to his own 
ruin? If there were nothing that could be done, then 

God the Creator 23 

there would be no sense in preaching. It is just be- 
cause there is something that can be done that there 
is a church, a Christianity, a Bible, and prayer. And 
there is something that can be done because God has 
done something. He does not allow man to turn away 
from him. He has come extra close to us so we can no 
longer shun him. But he has come in order to look 
at us again and so we may look at him again. That is 
Jesus Christ. In him the image of God and therefore 
also the true Man has once again become visible to 
us. Now we can see God again just as he can see us. 
And in him who now sees God again something new 
takes place. The godlessness vanishes, and the image 
of God comes forth. The creation is restored. The 
goal of creation for man is not yet perfected but the 
goal begins to be seen. The image of God appears 
when we allow Jesus Christ to have an influence upon 
us. To let Jesus Christ influence us is what the Bible 
calls faith. We should allow Jesus Christ to cleanse us 
of evil and to place the love of God in us. 

How does that actually take place? It happens as 
God wills it, right now in listening to the sermon. 
It happens also when one with faith allows the word 
of God to speak to him through the Holy Scriptures. 
It happens when we allow what we have read to move 
our hearts just as the photographer moves the fluid 
over the plate until the picture comes forth. It hap- 
pens when we lay everything we experience before 
God in prayer so he may bless or cleanse it. It happens 
when we take the time to allow God to speak to us 

24 / Believe in the Living God 

and when we take the time to speak to him. 

It also happens when we take the trouble to love 
our neighbor as Christ loves us, as God loves us in 
Jesus Christ. That we forgive those against whom we 
bear some grudge, that we love those who have in 
some way made it difficult for us, that we do not con- 
demn one who goes some particular way that we may 
think is completely wrong and would not take our- 
selves. That we are, above all, there when he needs 
us, that we take the trouble to discover where a hid- 
den need is, where there is one waiting for us, where 
there is one who needs a friendly word and a helping 
hand from us. 

But how does all this alter world events? It changes 
things first of all because there is then at least one 
place in God's creation that is not destroyed but is 
preserved as it should be. Life has meaning. For what 
is it that gives meaning to life if not humanity? And 
what is the origin of love if not the love of God for 
us? Wherever that takes place, there is what is right. 
And where that happens, it is like a light in the dark, 
a fire in the cold world, an oasis in the desert of god- 
lessness and of destruction. This oasis can be larger or 
smaller. It can be only as large as your house, or it 
can be as large as your neighborhood or your city. 
Or there may be so many oases in our city and in 
our nation that they will give the vision to the whole 
city and even to the whole nation. That is the mean- 
ing of the Christian life. Even today. We do not know 
how many oases will be left after we have passed 

God the Creator 25 

through these critical years. But we do know that the 
goal of God's creation is coming forth wherever there 
is one, that there life is running along the pathway 
of the divine creation. And above all we know that 
even all of the evil and godlessness of men cannot hin- 
der God from perfecting his work of creation. The 
great godless powers of our time can no more hinder 
God's purpose than could Judas and Pilate and Caia- 
phas. Even they must unwittingly serve him. And 
that is why we, as those who know that, will therefore 
remain cheerful and joyful in the midst of all the 
catastrophes and tragedies that may come our way. It 
is only the foreground; the background is God's work 
of creation, whose plan and purpose we know in Jesus 
Christ our Lord. Amen. 

II The Father 

I believe in God the Father Almighty, 
Maker of heaven and earth. 

/ am the Lord, and there is no other. . . . I form light and 
create darkness, I make weal and create woe, I am the Lord, 
-who do all these things. (Isa. 45:5, 7.) 

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be 
called children of God; and so we are. (I John 3:1.) 

IN THE FIRST sentence of the Apostles' Creed, 
which we wish to consider once again today, an ex- 
pression is used that cannot be found anywhere in the 
Bible; "the Father Almighty." The Holy Scriptures 
teach both that God is almighty and that he is the 
Father. It may or may not be an accident that this 
expression, "the Father Almighty," cannot be found 


The Father Almighty 27 

anywhere in the whole Bible. This much is certain: 
we do find it difficult to keep both things in mind at 
the same time the almightiness of God and the fath- 
erly love of God. We shiver when we hear the power- 
ful word of Isaiah: "I am the Lord, and there is no 
other. I form light and create darkness, I make weal 
and create woe, I am the Lord, who do all these 
things/' It is as if this word must strike us to the 
ground, as if our breath were knocked out of us. The 
majesty and almightiness of God cannot be more 
strikingly expressed than it is in this word of God in 
The Book of Isaiah. But then the question arises in 
our minds: Is that the same God of which John 
speaks, "See what love the Father has given us, that 
we should be called children of God; and so we are"? 
When we hear that, our heart expands and begins to 
rejoice within us; the stricken man stands up not on 
his own power or self-trust but by the hand of God 
which comforts us. Are both things true, that which 
Isaiah says and that which John says, or is it perhaps 
so that the one is Old Testament and therefore, so to 
speak, obsolete, superseded by the New Testament, 
and that the other is New Testament proper and 
therefore normative for us? It is of the greatest im- 
portance that we find a clear answer to this question. 
For it is indeed a question that not only the Bible 
but also contemporary reality forces upon us. But 
here the case is just the opposite. If we look at reality, 
at the world over which the black handkerchief of 
mourning is spread, at this world in which the in- 

28 / Believe in the Living God 

dividual man no longer counts, in which life is ex- 
tinguished as one snuffs out a candlelight with two 
fingers we can still in any case conceive of a majestic, 
almighty God but in no case of a God of fatherly 
love. There are at present many thousands, even mil- 
lions, and there will be even more who in moments of 
great despair raise the qustion: Where is the God of 
love? Can there really be a Father looking on when 
it goes so with his children? Can a Father permit his 
children to ruin the lives of one another so much? 
Can a kind, loving Father allow so many innocent 
people to suffer, to suffer often more terribly than 
anybody else? And if even we who are still more or 
less looking on and are only slightly involved find 
this question a tormenting one, how much more must 
it burn and agitate in the hearts of those who are 
most directly involved in this suffering. How must it 
be, for example, for mothers to have courage who 
are now without a roof over their heads, without 
heat, without food at the beginning of a severe winter, 
their husbands and brothers and sons dead, and some 
crying, freezing, hungry little children to whom they 
can give neither bread nor warmth? With what pas- 
sion their question must rise to heaven: Where are 
you, God, of whom they have taught us that you are 
a loving Father? One can well understand why many 
sober-minded men during the last war lost their faith 
in a heavenly Father. 

Yes, what kind of answer do we Christians have to 
this question? It seems as if all that remains is the dif- 

The Father Almighty 29 

ference between the Old Testament and the New 
Testament texts: that we cannot believe in an al- 
mighty Father but rather that God is either almighty 
or he is a kind Father. Either the Old Testament or 
the New Testament text must be right. Either God 
does not will all this dreadfulness which is now going 
on because he is a kind Father but a weak, powerless 
one who can do nothing; or God could stop it all if 
he wanted to do so but does not then he is not a 
kind Father but a cruel tyrant of the world, insensible 
to human suffering, against whom one can do noth- 
ing, against whom one can only rear up in defiance. 
Or and this is the conclusion that many draw 
there is actually no god. Your faith in God, we hear 
everywhere, is refuted by world history. Your God is 
a phantasy, unreal. Your phantasy is, to be sure, more 
beautiful than reality O were you right! Unfortu- 
nately it is not so but only a dream from which the 
harsh facts of reality again and again awaken us. 

I believe, dear friends, there is no one at all among 
us who has not these days followed one or the other 
line of thought. It is therefore important that we hon- 
estly come to terms with this question and determine 
for what purpose our double text is necessary. We 
simply have to know how the almightiness and father- 
ly love of God are related. Do they belong together? 
Dare we confess, "I believe in God the Father Al- 
mighty"? Either we have an answer to this question 
or our faith will always be undecided in its content 
and uncertain in its foundation. "I am the Lord, and 

go / Believe in the Living God 

there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I 
make weal and create woe, I am the Lord, who do 
all these things." God is therefore almighty because 
he is the creator. Out of nothing God created the 
world. That is the message not only of the Old Testa- 
ment but just as much so that of the New Testament. 
God would not really be God if there were something 
beside him that limited his will. Then he would not 
really be the only God. A God, however, who is not 
the only God is just an idol. Therefore, both un- 
separated belong in the text: "I am the Lord, and 
there is no other/' The God who is creator, the Lord 
God, is the only God. There is no other. Of course 
the world is beside him; there is a nature that is not 
God; there are laws of nature that really rule the 
course of nature; there are creatures and among them 
are we men who are really not God but, so to speak, 
opposite God. But we are not a boundary for God's 
almightiness because he himself has created us. Be- 
cause he has created us, he has in a certain sense 
limited his own almightiness. Because he has given us 
a free will, individual decision, even the ability to 
say no to him, he has, so to speak, laid out a free 
space for us just as a father makes room in his work- 
shop for his children where they may work, learn to 
be independent and to accept responsibility for them- 
selves. In this area they may now rule and manage. 
Their father does not always speak to them there, 
even when they make stupid mistakes or ruin a good 
piece of wood or dull many beautiful tools. How else 

The Father Almighty 31 

would they ever grow up if they did not learn for 
themselves what are the consequences of mistakes? 

So God deals with us. God lets us decide for our- 
selves, but he also lets us take the consequences of 
our decisions. "What man sows he must also reap." 
And that is what again and again frightens us, that 
there is so much suffering in the world. It frightens 
us and makes us doubt our faith because we do not 
want to see how much guilt, how much folly, how 
much disobedience against God's commandment, 
there is in the world. God does not create the dis- 
obedience, the folly, or the guilt, but he does create 
their consequences. He has so ordered the world and 
so controls it that suffering is the consequence of sin. 
If, however, God had allowed as much suffering as 
there ought to be as the consequence of our sin, we 
all long ago would have been cast into hell, which 
we all richly deserve. It is only because of God's 
patience and goodness that he allows us to go on liv- 
ing in order that we may change. 

But why, then, does he spare one person more than 
another? Why is there so much suffering of innocent 
people? Why is suffering so unequally divided? Why 
do the godless often suffer the least and the godly the 
most? Why . . . Yes, let me go on, why does God 
not rule the world just as I think it should be? Why 
did God not ask me how to run the world so it would 
have turned out so much better, how to run things 
according to my superior intelligence? Do you not 
see what kind of advice we are giving God? As if God 

g 2 / Believe in the Living God 

had to account to us, as if we were in a position to 
say how the world ought to be ruled so that it would 
turn out well with all! So this pride would be silenced 
once for all, God has placed the cross of the Savior 
before our eyes. See there how God works, how so 
completely incomprehensible in his wisdom, justice, 
and love. That was, to be sure, unjust suffering. It 
was humanly speaking nonsense, stupidity that 
happened there. And even this, God has made to be 
the relevation of his justice and love, as nothing else. 
What we see is this: God there punishes our sins and 
also reveals his forgiveness. There is nothing in the 
world that can more deeply convince us of our guilt 
and make us so sorry as the crucifixion of Jesus 
just as nothing can so quiet a defiant child as when it 
sees its mother shed tears over it in trouble. The 
vicarious suffering of the mother cuts more deeply 
into its heart than its own suffering. And so nothing 
can press the love of God into our hearts as the death 
of the Savior because we see there what all God's love 
takes upon itself for us. Nothing can prove love so 
well for us as suffering willingly taken over for us. 
So the most senseless thing in itself that we hanged 
the Holy God as a religious criminal, as a godless 
man, on a criminal's gallows becomes a revelation 
of God's justice and love. 

There we can, I say, see how incomprehensible 
God's rule of the world is, how he uses strange means 
that we would never have chosen, that we would 
never have thought of. From that, however, we must 

The Father Almighty 33 

recognize how great is God's love and wisdom, that he 
has done it in that way and not as we would have 
done it. The cross of the Savior is the work of God. 
He has created this "evil/' this "woe," as our text 
from Isaiah says. But that does not do away with the 
fact that it is at the same time the sinful work of 
men. The cross was the consequence of Judas' treason, 
of the jealousy and blindness of the high priests, of 
the human fears of the Roman governor. Yet it was 
God's work. 

So also God creates in this time of struggle and 
misery. His work is everything that happens, as for- 
merly he remained the Almighty, the Creator and 
Ruler of the world. In his hand are the mighty who 
still rule at present; in his hand are the godless, the 
cruel, the fierce, before whose increase we all shudder. 
They are all chessmen on his chessboard; they do not 
know it. They think they are playing their own game, 
and we also think so, of ourselves and of the other 
ones. And in a certain sense it is true that they are. 
We live by our own calculations. Nevertheless, God 
uses us all as the tools for his own plans, the good and 
the evil, the harmless and the great evildoers. How he 
does that is his secret. We could not understand it 
even if he explained it to us; he really would be ex- 
plaining it to us as children. He explains only as 
much as we can understand: first, that suffering is 
the consequence of human sin and that it should 
warn us against evil so that we abandon it and return; 
secondly, that all the suffering and woe that he uses 

34 / Believe in the Living God 

as a means to accomplish his purpose cannot abolish 
his plan which he has revealed to us in Jesus Christ 
as the plan of redemption. 

For that is now the real revelation of God: "See 
what love the Father has given us, that we should be 
called the children of God; and so we are." The main 
point is not that God uses the treason of Judas, the 
false sentence of the high court, Pilate's fear of men, 
as true as that is also; rather, that God when he 
creates and uses all this evil also reveals his love and 
accomplishes his work of salvation. For that reason 
Jesus Christ came, "that he might destroy the works 
of the devil," that he might abolish the evil in which 
all of us are entangled and establish the eternal life, 
the Kingdom of God where there is no more suffer- 
ing and even where death will no longer be. We can- 
not see ahead, and even then we shall understand 
only partly why God has taken this way toward his 
goal, why he allows wars and godless tyrannies. One 
day, when we open our eyes on the other side, we 
shall perhaps understand a little or at least as much 
as we creatures are capable of understanding or still 
have a need to understand. But this much is certain: 
God goes as he freely wills toward his goal. As a 
stream flowing toward the sea follows many crooked 
and unbelievably roundabout ways to get to its goal 
because the formation of the land does not allow a 
direct way, so God goes over the land of human his- 
tory by a winding way toward his goal because the 
land formation of human sin, of human rebellion 

The Father Almighty 35 

against God, does not allow a more direct way. But 
as sure as the stream flows seaward even when it 
seems to be flowing for long stretches away from the 
sea, equally certain is the way of God with humanity 
toward the Kingdom of God, toward eternity, toward 
the goal of perfect fellowship between him and the 

The almightiness of God and his love do not stand 
in opposition to one another but in a reciprocal rela- 
tion. Were God not almighty, how could we trust 
that he could really carry out his plan of love? Were 
God not love, how could we ever call him God? After 
we have once seen Jesus Christ we can call no one 
else God except him who is love. It is of course true 
that the Old Testament emphasizes the almightiness 
of God and is not able to present the love of God with 
the same clarity as the New Testament. For God had 
still not given us the most extreme demonstration of 
his love. He had not yet come to us as man and had 
not yet as man taken upon himself our sins and guilt. 
That is what John means when he says: "See what 
love the Father has given us." Only on the basis of 
this gift do we know how limitless and unconditional 
is the love of God; only upon it can we say with com- 
plete trust in spite of our sinfulness: God is still my 
Father; I am still his child. 

And what now is the practical consequence? The 
most important thing that can be said to us in this 
time and must be said is this: all that which the world 
shows you cannot separate you from him whom Jesus 

36 / Believe in the Living God 

Christ shows you. That we do not waver in this faith 
is now the most important thing of all. Were we to 
lose this faith, we would have lost everything. Then 
life would have no more meaning for us. Life has, 
however, exactly this meaning, that we live in this 
faith in the Father Almighty humbly and with love. 
Before the almightiness of God we become humble, 
for then we know how insignificant we are, how de- 
pendent we are upon God's acting and giving. Not 
upon ourselves, thank God, depends the salvation of 
the world; not in our hands is the destiny of the 
world. Not upon us does it depend what becomes of 
humanity. Completely beyond our understanding, 
God can carry out his plan through a Judas. We are 
not really those upon whom it depends. But we dare 
not therefore precipitate anything or become discour- 
aged. For what God has planned we know through 
Jesus Christ. Just as he has redeemed us in him, so 
he will redeem the whole world in him. Even if we 
do not control the destiny of the world, we may still 
know that God has sent us his love and will do so more 
and more so we may be fellow workers in his works. 
We may proclaim his love to others; we may lead 
them to him. Even our love, though it is still so in- 
complete, points to his love. We may be joyful and 
certain not only in our faith in God's love but also 
in the fellowship that he has given us, that foretaste 
of what the end of all things will be. We may love 
those who doubt the love of God so that we may be 
a help to them in believing that love is still the only 

The Father Almighty 37 

ultimate truth. The more we love, the less they can 
doubt God's love, the more they must ask about him 
who sends us such love in the midst of a loveless 
world. When we are steadfast in the love of God 
something new around us will take place in the world 
as a parable of what it will sometime be "when God is 
all in all." The one proof at present that God is the 
Father Almighty is a community of humble, loving 
children of God. And to be that is the meaning of 
this present life. Amen. 

Ill The Light 

of the Nations 

I believe ... in Jesus Christ his only 
Son our Lord. 

It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise 
up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; 
I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may 
reach to the end of the earth. . . . / have kept you and given 
you as a covenant to the people. (Isa. 49:6, 8.) 

EVERY DAY WE think about the world of nations. 
We have gradually learned that in sickness and pros- 
perity we are united with one another in one body, 
of which the words of the apostle are quite true: when 
one member suffers all members suffer with him. We 
Swiss know that our destiny is not dependent upon 
us alone, nor solely upon the decisions of the nations 
neighboring us. What is determined in the White 


The Light of the Nations 39 

House in Washington, or in the Kremlin, can from 
one day to the next work itself out in every Swiss 
household and in the most remote village of the Con- 
federation for good or evil. The time of national isola- 
tion is over forever; the nations, whether they like 
it or not, have become destiny's one sole community. 
That is one fact that no one can any longer alter. 
But what has this fact to do with God, with the mes- 
sage of Jesus Christ, with the Bible? 

Our text gives us an answer to that question. Two 
and a half thousand years ago when the people of 
Israel were forcefully moved to Babylon after the 
destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and 
there, far from home and far from the Temple, 
threatened to sink into hopelessness and discourage- 
ment, God gave them a prophet who dared to deliver 
the word of God about the coming salvation and to 
inspire his downcast people again with hope and 
courage from God. "Comfort,, comfort my people" 
so begins his writing, which is preserved for us in ch. 
40 of The Book of Isaiah. This prophet whose name 
we do not even know, let alone the story of his life, 
was given by God as the first man upon the earth to 
speak of the nations and of the history of the nations 
as of one unity, something that formed a congruous 
whole. Considered from a purely human point of 
view, one has to count this man whom people call, at 
loss for a better name, the Second Isaiah, among the 
greatest discoverers, for he has discovered the fact of 
"world history." He himself, however, would protest 

40 / Believe in the Living God 

against such a title of honor and say: I have discovered 
nothing at all. What I speak, God has commanded rne 
to speak; not my discovery but his word I pass on. He 
who has created all the nations is also the Lord of 
them all. And he has created them all so that they may 
all know him as their Lord and live by his love. As 
they all have this one common origin, so they all have 
this one common goal. From this we know what the 
ancient Greeks did not know in spite of all their wis- 
dom: that there is one connected humanity and one 
world history running toward one goal. That is why 
the Christian faith and were it just the faith of the 
dearest little mother who reads the Bible and prays 
in her little bedroom always has this great horizon 
including all nations and knows that the Kingdom 
God created is one body from many nations, and 
every one of us a member of it. 

Thus the Lord speaks: It is too light a thing that 
you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of 
Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will 
give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation 
may reach to the end of the earth. That, dear friends, 
is the foundation charter of missions. Roughly in the 
year 550 before Jesus Christ that happened. Since 
then there have been missions to the heathen. Since 
then those who belong to the community of God have 
known that there is no private Christianity, and no 
mere national Christianity, but one church owing the 
gospel to all nations of the world. 

About whom does this word of God really talk 

The Light of the Nations 41 

when it speaks of and to the servant of God? Some- 
times it seems as if the prophet of the Babylonian 
captivity means the people of Israel; they, the stricken, 
tormented people of God enduring alone by God's 
grace and holding together through the knowledge of 
God, shall be God's servant among the nations. But 
then again there are many other passages, as precisely 
our text is one, where quite clearly the distinction 
is made between God's people and the servant of 
God. One could think the prophet means himself; 
he is the one addressed by God as "my servant/' But 
even this interpretation does not suffice. Rather, we 
must turn back to the old view of the first Christian 
community: the servant of God whom Deutero- 
Isaiah has seen five hundred and fifty years before 
Christ's birth is no other than Jesus Christ our Lord. 
And the book of this prophet is a genuine Advent 
book, and this prophet a genuine Advent man. He 
sees, we cannot comprehend at all how that is pos- 
sible, things that are not yet, that will only happen in 
the distant future, five hundred and fifty years later 
as if one saw in the year 1400 what is now happening 
in the year 1959. From such a distance in the past he 
sees the picture of a servant, of a servant of God, of 
a suffering one, of a man who is laden with the guilt 
of humanity in order to bear it for man. And now he 
says of this servant: he is the light of the nations; he is 
the salvation of the world! It is something quite in- 
conceivably great that in this dark past, in the midst 
of the time of despair of the people of Israel, this man 

42 / Believe in the Living God 

may see over a half thousand years away to proclaim 
the light of the nations and the salvation of the world. 
When we have once seen that, we notice that it is more 
or less so with the entire Old Testament. The entire 
Old Testament is an Advent book. It deals with the 
coming of God, with the coming of his Kingdom; 
still veiled, only in silhouettes of the coming One, it 
proclaims the Messiah, the message of God who comes 
to his people, to the nations in order to be with them. 
Why has God done it thus, dear friends? Why has 
he first sent the Old and then the New Testament, 
why first the prophets and then Jesus Christ, why first 
the imperfect and then the perfect? The Bible itself 
gives us an answer to this question. That is so be- 
cause we are a headstrong, hard-of-hearing, hard-to- 
handle people. God has to have an infinite amount of 
patience with us. He has to begin right at the begin- 
ning, and only gradually can he give us the full light. 
We would not have been able to understand his word 
at all without the long time of preparation in the 
old covenant. And a second thing: it indicates in this 
how God has the whole history of the world in his 
hand, how he allows his light to rise slowly out of the 
dark, as he wills. That is a real comfort to us in the 
present time. Does it not happen sometimes that you 
think: What kind of patience the Lord God must have 
with us that he has not yet rejected me and that he 
does not say, "Now it's the end; now I have had 
enough of you!" And he has patience; that is why 
he has not already allowed the end of the world to 

The Light of the Nations 43 

come, as the apostles expected it. He has had two 
thousand years of patience until now so that we can 
mend our ways, so that we repent. So forbearing and 
patient is the Lord! But do you not notice that God's 
forbearance should lead you to repentance? 

Even the prophet of the exile did not think that 
it would still take six hundred years until He came 
whom he foresaw as God's servant. The true prophets 
are not soothsayers, and true Biblical prophecy is not 
a calculation of the future; and that is why they who 
thought they could calculate future events from Bibli- 
cal prophecies have always been disappointed. This 
apocalyptic long division has nothing to do with Bibli- 
cal faith. For day and hour even year and century 
no one knows, not even the Son; the Father alone 
knows, says the Lord Jesus. But if the prophet did not 
know even the year, not even the century, then he 
did know very well the work and the meaning of the 
coming Messiah. "I will give you as a light to the na- 
tions, ... I have . . . given you as a covenant to the 
people." Jesus Christ is the revealer of the divine 
truth and he is the redeemer from guilt and sin. 

During wartime blackout practices we noticed what 
life would be like without light, how weird everything 
was, how one took uncertain steps, how quickly one 
lost his way, how easily one collided. The blackout is 
said to have cost more lives in England than the war. 
That may be a parable for us of what darkness in the 
spiritual sense means in the individual life of man 
and in the life of nations. You know, indeed, how it 

44 / Believe in the Living God 

is when it is simply dark in us and around us, when we 
do not know in and out, when it is like a devilish dark- 
ening over our mind, and we ourselves think, feel, 
and do what the light shuns. That the Bible calls 
"wandering in darkness/' But it can happen that one 
becomes accustomed to this darkness so that he does 
not notice how terrible, how inhuman, how contrary 
to sense all life then becomes. And as in individuals, so 
in the life of nations. Now is a blackout time in the 
whole world of nations, as perhaps never at all before. 
For earlier one still knew that there is a God, that 
there is a righteousness, that finally a retribution 
comes, that there are holy laws and orders. But to- 
day there are millions and millions of Europeans 
about the others I do not wish to speak now who no 
longer know all that, who have radically struck God 
from their hearts and lives and who therefore live en- 
tirely in darkness and who do the works of darkness. 
We see today and thank God; many who did not 
see it are now finally beginning to see it that one 
cannot live without God. But perhaps it is already 
too late; perhaps the darkness of godlessness must 
first give vent to its fury before better times can come. 
The power of darkness seems today to have received 
a free night from God that it may crush to pieces what 
it wills so that the nations realize to what place one 
comes when he abolishes God. Perhaps even the Swiss 
nation must go through dreadful times of judgment 
so that it may also know how much it has wandered 
in the darkness, in its politics, in its business life, in 

The Light of the Nations 45 

its earning and distribution of money, in its amuse- 
ments. Yes, who dares to affirm that we are not also 
the people "who sit in darkness"? 

This darkness is all the worse, since we indeed have 
seen the light. Jesus Christ has indeed come; the 
world has received the message about him, has heard 
the announcement of the seeking, forgiving, redeem- 
ing love of God, has outwardly become a Christian 
world. What kind of guilt is it that things could go 
so far in Christian Europe as they have now gone? 
If we could seek information from God who is to be 
made responsible in the first place, do you believe he 
would name Lenin, Stalin, Hitler? I fear very much 
he would say: "You Christians are guilty! If you had 
been genuine Christians, then there need never have 
been a Bolshevism or a National Socialism." If we 
Christians had more Christian communism, as the 
time of the apostles shows it to us, communistic shar- 
ing "What is mine is yours; you are my brother!" 
then we should not now have godless communism, 
and if Christendom had created more of a community 
of nations, then we would not now need a community 
by force. If Christendom had really subjected itself 
to the dictatorship of the Holy Spirit, then there 
would 'now be no dictatorship by brutal men. If Chris- 
tendom had really been Christian, then there would 
now be no movement of the godless. So God's opin- 
ion of us may run. 

Is that all that God would give us for an answer? 
God never judges and punishes merely to judge and 

46 I Believe in the Living God 

to punish. He does it in order to call us to repentance; 
he does it so that we finally begin to take him serious- 
ly. How can we take God seriously otherwise than 
when we truly accept him whom he has sent us as 
Light and Mediator of the covenant? The light that 
God has sent the nations in Jesus Christ has not gone 
out; the new covenant, the covenant of reconciliation, 
of redemption, of peace that he has made in him the 
Mediator of the covenant with the human race, con- 
tinues. It matters only that we see the light and that 
we really allow ourselves to be taken up in the cov- 
enant and remain loyal to it. Jesus Christ is given to 
us for righteousness, for sanctification, and for re- 
demption, and it is just as true today as two thousand 
years ago: if one is in Christ, then he is a new crea- 
ture. But it must also become true among us; we must 
really wrap ourselves up in the grace of God in Jesus 
Christ just as a little child, when it becomes afraid, 
wraps itself up in the apron of its mother, has a good 
cry there, and is also comforted so that it again jumps 
happily into the street. 

The other day there came to me a man who had suf- 
fered many years terribly under the power of dark- 
ness. But this time he looked at me as I have never 
seen him and said: "It is gone." I said: "What is 
gone?" Then he told me how he grasped for the Bible 
in his despair, read well a dozen times one after an- 
other the letter to the Romans. All at once it became 
bright in him. The power of darkness had gone away; 
he understood that it was true for him what Jesus 

The Light of the Nations 47 

Christ says on the cross: "It is finished/' "Since I have 
understood that," he said to me, "all is gone, the old 
tie, sin, anxiety. I am a happy, free man!" See, he has 
wrapped himself up in Jesus Christ and has thereby 
become a new man. There are, in fact, men here 
who can testify the same of themselves. Such a thing 
happens to us when we really place, plunge our heart, 
our thinking, our feeling, our willing, our imagina- 
tion in Jesus Christ. As different men, as new men, 
we go forth from this encounter with him. He is still 
really the light and the salvation of the world. It is 
still true today: "He who follows me will not walk in 
darkness, but will have the light of life." We are in 
darkness in so far as we are away from Christ, and 
in the light in so far as we live in Christ. 

But now it is the nature of light that it extends it- 
self. He who lives with Jesus Christ not only has light 
but also becomes a light and were it only a modest 
little candlelight for others. This light is given to us 
not only for ourselves but for all nations. As light of 
the nations he has come that his salvation may reach to 
the ends of the earth. The Christian community must 
always prove that it really has the light by carrying 
it farther to the ends of the earth. From the very 
beginning the Christian community was a missionary 
society. It could not keep for itself what was given 
to it; it had to pass it on. For just as the power of 
darkness shuts one off, so the strength of the light of 
Christ opens one up for others. Light shines, light 
spreads. Thus the light of Jerusalem encroached upon 

48 / Believe in the Living God 

all Palestine, then upon the Near East; it spread to 
Greece, to Rome, to Spain, to Africa. Thus it also 
came to us in Switzerland. And thus it also goes to- 
day from Switzerland and other lands out into all 
parts of the world. Missionary zeal was always a ther- 
mometer for the warmth of the Christian faith. When 
missionary zeal becomes lame, then faith has also be- 
come lame and love cooled down. 

In the present time, however, we have a double 
cause to carry on the work of missions with all zeal. 
We see what godlessness causes in the world of na- 
tions. For the sake of ourselves we have to carry on 
the mission to all nations; for what shall become of 
Europe if the already existing powers of godlessness 
also join with the nations of the East that more or less 
help determine the destiny of the nations upon the 
whole earth? Out of prudence we may wish that 
China, Japan, and India will be penetrated as soon 
as possible by the spirit of the gospel. But as a Chris- 
tian community we cannot and must not take refuge 
in such a thought. Already the thought lies closer to 
us that perhaps in those distant nations the treasure 
of the gospel will be preserved more safely than in 
Europe threatened by Bolshevism. In times of up- 
heaval one hides the costliest treasures in the safest 
places. It already seems as if the Far East would be a 
safer place for the message of Christ than our Europe 
decaying so much into godlessness. But even that can- 
not be our last thought. We owe quite simply the 
message of salvation to all nations. We sin against 

The Light of the Nations 49 

them and the gospel if we do not bring it to them. We 
have no right to keep it to ourselves. Never can the 
community of Christ fall into the thought: We now 
have so much to do in our own land and need so much 
money that there is no longer anything for the mis- 
sions. Before God, Switzerland is no more important 
than China or India. For the church there are no na- 
tional barriers and no national partialities. The mis- 
sion is not the concern of some who have a particular 
interest for such a thing; rather, it is the concern of 
the whole community of Christians wherever it is 
and of every member of the community of Christians, 
whoever he is. No one has a right to exclude himself. 
Either you are willing to have missions or you are no 
Christian. That his salvation may go to the ends of 
the earth, for that, dear friends, every one of us is 
together responsible. Awake, thou Spirit of the first 
witnesses! Amen. 

IV God 

Became Man 

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, 
born of the Virgin Mary. 

When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born 
of woman, born under the law, . . . so that we might receive 
adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent 
the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" 
So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a 
son then an heir. (Gal. 4:4-7.) 

IF WE TODAY in the midst of a time of world 
struggle wish to celebrate Christmas properly, then 
two things dare not happen. First, we dare not let the 
joy of Christmas be corrupted by thoughts about the 
horrors of the present time and by anxiety about the 
still greater ones that may yet come. Then the devil 
would have gained what he wants. With a Chris- 

God Became Man 51 

tianity that has no more joy in its heart he has an 
easy game. The only thing that he really fears are 
men who carry the real joy of Christmas in their 
hearts. For against them he is powerless. All evil 
thrives only in joylessness. When the evil enemy at- 
tacks a man who can truly sing out from his heart: 

The Sun that laughs at me 
Is my Lord Jesus Christ; 
What makes me sing 
Is what is in heaven, 

then that enemy stands before a fortress against 
which all his weapons can do nothing. He has to 
surrender in despair. That is why his tactic always is 
that he first tries to rob us of this joy. The second 
thing, however, is just as important: that we are not 
sucked into an artificial Christmas joy, that so-called 
Christmas joy which is gone two days after Christ- 
mas, which lasts about as long as the candles we burn 
on the Christmas tree. "One must now forget what 
kind of evil time it is; it should at least be Christmas 
today." This Christmas joy belongs in the category 
"means of intoxication, narcotic/' It produces only il- 
lusion and disappointment, and leaves the soul empty 
and weak. Against it the old evil enemy has nothing 
at all to protest. On the contrary, to him it is all right, 
for he loves everything that is illusion; all that plays 
into his hand. 

No, dear friends, we wish to have, if I may so ex- 
press it, a solid Christmas joy, not just a little candle- 
light with a Christmas-tree fragrance, but a storm Ian- 

52 I Believe in the Living God 

tern that does not go out even when it is blown upon 
from all sides. And that is why I have chosen for to- 
day a text that has nothing at all to do with the poetry 
of Christmas but is one of the most powerful words 
of the entire Holy Scriptures because it, as it were, 
expresses the Christmas joy in the whole context of 
the message of salvation. That I would like to try to 
show you with God's help. May he who gave this word 
to the apostle also make it so sink into our hearts that 
it will stand fast, invincible, not to be brought down, 
a truly mighty fortress that is able to ward off all 

"When the time had fully come . . ." How re- 
markable that still sounds! Time that had fully come! 
How altogether differently we speak of time! Every 
man speaks today of an evil time. One would like to 
be away from it, either back in a more beautiful past 
or far away in a happier future. It is only the time that 
is now which one does not like to live through. That 
is quite humanly understandable, just as a sick person 
yearns for days when he was well or when he will 
again be well. This is now the time of humanity's 
sickness: the body is running a fever and is in pain; 
it tosses and turns in the dreadful events of the pres- 
ent. But how did we do before with time? Was the 
time before a time that had fully come? Why, then, 
these efforts to pass away the time, to forget the lost 
time, the elapsed time? Why was it and why is it still 
that so many men complain they have no time? Think 
once a little about what a role the "too late" or "too 

God Became Man 53 

early'* has played in your life, or about why it is that 
the memory of the past is so sad. Time passes and with 
it our expectations and hopes, unfulfilled, just as buds 
fall from the trees without having become fruit. Just 
that seems to be the nature of time, which we all 
know: that it has not fully come but just passes 
away. And now there it sounds like a tone from an- 
other world into our world: "When the time had 
fully come ..." 

Yes, from another world, and yet it means that 
from our world and from our world time. It was not 
at all a particularly good time about which the apostle 
speaks. Had one then said to some Jew, "You, the time 
has now fully come/' he would have looked at him as 
one looks at a crazy man. What has fully come? Noth- 
ing has fully come. The world is full of suffering, anx- 
iety, injustice, death, and sorrow. Because in an ob- 
scure corner of the Roman Empire a little child has 
come into the world therefore has the time fully 
come? Are we Jews not the prey of Roman imperial- 
ism? Do the nations not groan under the yoke of Ro- 
man dictatorship? Do the Roman officials not plunder 
our land? And if we were to meet this Jew again thirty 
years later, would he not scornfully call to us: "And 
now where are you with your time that has fully 
come? Yesterday he was crucified by the Roman gov- 
ernor, your fulfiller of time, and now things go on the 
same old miserable way." And since then nineteen 
hundred years has flown by, with numerous wars; the 
world empire of Rome has broken up; others have 

54 / Believe in the Living God 

come and gone. Millions of men have been born and 
have died. What do you want with your absurd "when 
the time had fully come"? Time passes away that 
is all. 

And yet it is true: when the time had fully come, 
God sent his Son. We cannot see that the time had 
fully come. But above time God sits on his throne in 
his eternity and looks upon the world and its time, 
just as a doctor sits at the bed of a sick person who 
lies there in fever and knows nothing of the doctor. 
But the doctor listens carefully to his breathing and 
takes his pulse and then at a particular moment stands 
up and calls his nurse and says, "Now is the time; now 
we shall operate/' And then he performs the saving 
act. We do not know the time when it is time for God; 
we are the sick person, not the physician. But God 
knows the time, our time, which is his time. Time for 
him to act, to save. When the time had fully come, 
God sent his Son. 

That is why we celebrate Christmas. For we know: 
at that time the saving act took place. Just why at that 
time, we do not really understand. But we know 
what God has done at that time for us, a humanity 
sick unto death. He has saved us. And the act by 
which he has done it is the coming of him whom the 
Bible calls the Son of God, That is, as everything that 
we say about God, a parable. God has no sons just as 
men have sons. But this parable expresses a truth that 
we can never completely grasp. It says: Jesus is he 
who comes forth from the heart and mystery of God, 

God Became Man 55 

yes, who is God himself upon earth, without God hav- 
ing ceased to be in his eternity; he, in whom God 
himself is with us and wills to be with us, and in 
whom he himself speaks to us and deals with us; he 
in whom God himself encounters us and opens his 
heart, he through whom God has 'established the rela- 
tion with himself. 

As a true man, he was among us, one of us. That 
Paul wants to say with the words "born of woman, 
born under the law." Both are expressions that des- 
ignate man as a creature, as an ordinary man. That is 
what can be said of every man and must be said: he 
is born of woman and born under the law. The 
apostle does not speak of a virgin either here or any- 
where else. He does not want to emphasize what dis- 
tinguishes Jesus from us, but rather, what makes him 
like us: birth and law. He was once a little struggling 
child in swaddling clothes. And he had to learn, had 
to listen, had to go to school to learn to read and 
write; had to learn, as every other little Jewish boy, 
to read the Bible the Old Testament. He was reared 
in the custom and religion of his father, perhaps also 
in his father's vocation as a carpenter. His mother 
taught him to pray, and he prayed his whole life long. 
His last word, "My God, my God, why hast thou for- 
saken me?" was a prayer. He died, as every man must 
die, and was buried. He was a man. Thus God wanted 
to have it; as man, God wanted to come to us men; 
otherwise he would not really come to us at all. Only 
a man can we really understand. We do not under- 

5 6 / Believe in the Living God 

stand what is less than a man, and we do not under- 
stand what is more than a man. But God wanted to 
be wholly understandable to us, and near. Thus he 
came as man to us. 

But now this "under the law" has still another far- 
reaching meaning. By law Paul means in Galatians the 
curse that weighs upon human life on account of its 
godlessness. Into this curse Jesus came, just as a son 
comes into the business debts of his father. He himself 
did not indeed incur the debts, but the debts that 
men have incurred crush him to death. He came into 
it, and the curse that lies upon the whole human race 
on account of its godlessness destroys him. For that 
reason he had come. He, the innocent one, wanted 
and had to be destroyed by an evil human inheritance. 

See, that belongs to the message of Christmas! 
There is no Christmas without Good Friday; we will 
also see that there is no Good Friday without Easter 
and Whitsunday. That is the most powerful thing 
about this Christmas text, that it unites Christmas 
with Good Friday, Easter, and Whitsundy. The in- 
carnation of the Savior is first completed on the cross. 
For there for the first time it is completely true: he 
took us upon himself in order to give himself. 

Here the apostle speaks of a kind of slave transac- 
tion, as if one goes to the slave market, stands before 
a slave and says to the slavetrader, "Let him go free; 
I will be the slave in his place;'* and then he frees the 
slave and takes the other who has voluntarily given 
himself. So Jesus has come under the curse for us, has 

God Became Man 57 

borne it for us so that we may become free. That is the 
real incarnation. On Good Friday it has come about 
for the first time. So he has become one of our kind, 
one burdened with slavery, so that we may become 
those of his kind, free men, God's sons. This difficult 
basis our Christmas joy has. All the suffering and evil 
of time is, so to speak, crammed into it. That is why it 
is no cheap but a very expensive joy. It cost God his 
Son. God could not make it cheaper. This act was 
necessary if we should be saved. But the cost of his 
act he alone has borne. 

Again and again we ask, Why? This question one 
can never finish answering. Yet the answer must be 
again and again this: Because God could not release 
us from the curse of sin any other way. Sin is basically 
only one thing: that we love ourselves instead of lov- 
ing God and our neighbor. We are so entangled in 
this self-love that all education, all culture, all mo- 
rality, and all training cannot release us from it. 
They become again for us all the means of self-love. 
God has seen to say it like a child that there is only 
one means to overcome this dreadful self-love of men: 
his love, which goes so far that he surrenders and sac- 
rifices himself for us. Only this sacrifice is a great 
enough counterweight to the dreadful weight of our 
self-love. Only with this sacrifice could he break the 
curse that lies over us through godlessness. Thus he 
came to us as man; thus he completely entered into 
the curse of godlessness and allowed himself to be 
swallowed up by it so that we may finally become 

58 / Believe in the Living God 

free of it. How, then, does that happen? By finally 
venturing through this deed of divine self-sacrifice to 
believe in God's love so that we see the greatness of 
our guilt and yet at the same time no longer despair 
over it. For without Jesus Christ we do one of two 
things: either we believe in God's love as something 
self-evident, without seeing our guilt and repenting 
of our sin; or we see the guilt of our sin and with 
nothing but a feeling of guilt do not come to believe 
in God's love. Both things allow us to remain fixed 
in our godlessness. Only if we get away from both, 
from the false carelessness that regards God's love as 
self-evident and from the melancholy anxiety that 
despairs of God's love, only then are we free from the 
curse of sin. That cannot happen otherwise than 
through the knowledge of what God has done for us 
in Jesus Christ. 

That is the purpose of the whole incarnation of 
God's Son, this exchange, that we gave him our curse 
and he gives us his divine Sonship. Through this re- 
demption which has cost him his life we receive the 
freedom of God's sons. That is the title of nobility 
that we receive as a gift. Christ is by nature God's 
Son, not one who has become but one who is from all 
eternity. But we are adopted sons, we become sons 
through this bond, through this act of exchange. But 
we become sons only through the fact that we on our 
side sign this bill of sale, just as one completes the 
sale of a house before a notary public. Through it we 
say: "I acknowledge it in unspeakable thankfulness 

God Became Man 59 

and at the same time in shame and repentance that 
out of a slave of godlessness, of self-love and of anx- 
iety, I have become through you, Lord Jesus, a free 
man, a son of God, that which you are from eternity. 
Your love now belongs to me and your eternal life 
now belongs to me. No one may dispute that it be- 
longs to me because you have bought it for me 
through your suffering of death." 

See, that is the Christmas joy that has foundation! 
For where there is such faith, there Christmas and 
Good Friday are accompanied by Easter and Whit- 
sunday. For not to the one who has died for me on the 
cross can I speak thus, but only to the one who has 
been raised from the grave, who sits at the right hand 
of God. If Jesus has not been raised, then indeed the 
trade is worth nothing, then indeed it was not God's 
Son but a mere man who could do nothing for me. 
But if he is God's Son, then he has also been raised 
and offers me his eternal life in exchange for the curse 
under which I live and for the death before which I 
tremble. But if I can really hear his voice so that the 
voice of my heart answers him, then to Easter is added 
Whitsunday, the festival of the Holy Spirit. For he 
does not speak to me down from heaven but to my 
heart, here and now; truly indeed in my heart he 
speaks. He says to me that I am his in eternity, and I 
on my side may answer with Christmas joy: "Praised 
be Jesus Christ who is my redeemer/' To be God's 
sons, dear friends, if that is true, then we have a for- 
tress in this world that no devil can overrun. Why, 

60 / Believe in the Living God 

then, do we Christians sneak so morosely through the 
world? Why does it no longer radiate from our faces? 
Why is there so little warmth among us? Why other- 
wise than because we again and again forget it, again 
and again do not rightly believe that it is really and 
literally true: Abba, Father, "no longer a slave but a 
son, and if a son then an heir." But if we really be- 
lieve it, and it becomes as true in our hearts as in 
that of the apostle because it is indeed the same Holy 
Spirit who says it to him and who says it to us, then 
we also may know something of the time that had 
fully come. When this love of God shines in this time 
which passes away, this evil time, then something of 
evil times and of the passing away of time disappears, 
then something flashes up from the other world that 
can never again be extinguished. And thereupon we 
then wish to celebrate Christmas in spite of the devil 
and evil times, and to our God sing songs of praise 
and thank him that he is so incomprehensibly merci- 
ful that he redeems us who have been subject to the 
law with the life of his own Son so that we may live 
with him as his free sons in eternity. Amen. 

V Suffered Under 
Pontius Pilate 

[He] suffered under Pontius Pilate. 

Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him. And the soldiers 
plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and arrayed 
him in a purple robe; they came up to him, saying, "Hail, 
King of the Jews!" and struck him with their hands. Pilate 
went out again, and said to them, "Behold, I am bringing him 
out to you, that you may know that I find no crime in him." 
So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple 
robe. Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!" When the chief 
priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, "Crucify him, 
crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and 
crucify him, for I find no crime in him." The Jews answered 
him, "We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because 
he has made himself the Son of God" When Pilate heard these 
words, he was the more afraid; he entered the praetorium 
again and said to Jesus, "Where are you fromf" But Jesus 
gave no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, "You will not 


62 / Believe in the Living God 

speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release 
you, and power to crucify you?" Jesus answered him, "You 
would have no power over me unless it had been given you 
from above; therefore he who delivered me to you has the 
greater sin." 

Upon this Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried 
out, "If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend; 
every one who makes himself a king sets himself against 
Caesar" When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus 
out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The 
Pavement, and in Hebrew, Gabbatha. Now it was the day of 
Preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. He 
said to the Jews, "Here is your King!" They cried out, "Away 
with him, away with him, crucify him!'" Pilate said to them, 
"Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We 
have no king but Caesar." Then he handed him over to them 
to be crucified. (John 19:1-16.) 

FIRST OF ALL It is a very strange fact that in the 
Confession of Faith of the Christian church the name 
of a Roman state official comes to the front. For what 
has the Roman Empire to do with the Kingdom of 
Heaven, a name that belongs only to world history 
with the faith in him whose name is above every name 
and in whom the eternal life is contained? Has the 
church done the right thing when from the very be- 
ginning it has included the name of Pontius Pilate, 
the imperial governor of Judea, in the short summary 
of its gospel proclamation, which we call the Apostles' 
Creed and which it has every Christian child mem- 
orize so that the main thing may always be present in 
his mind? We wish to let the answer to this question 

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate 63 

be given to us by our text. In a time when the power 
conflicts of the kingdoms of this world make us hold 
our breath, when our daily life, private and public, is 
encroached upon and determined to such an enor- 
mous degree by the interests and demands of the state 
order, it is quite justifiable to reflect on how our 
Lord Jesus has met the state and the state the Lord 
Jesus. It is, indeed, something that makes us ponder 
that of all the Gospels, John's Gospel, which Luther 
calls the only really chief Gospel, tells about this 
meeting between the Savior and the imperial gover- 
nor with much greater detail than everything else. 
Obviously the Evangelist sees in it something that 
is of the greatest importance to every believer. 

In the chapter preceding our text a longer conver- 
sation between Pilate and the Lord Jesus is reported. 
His Jewish enemies had brought him after the short 
trial before the high priest and high court to the im- 
perial Roman ruler so that he who alone had the law 
of the death penalty in his hands might ratify their 
sentence of death. Their charge is, of course, not clear 
but ambiguous: he passes himself off as the Messiah. 
That could mean he is making himself the king or 
he claims to be God's Son. Obviously the first track 
will be pursued at the start, for it should make the 
greatest impression on the statesman who has to pro- 
tect the law of the emperor. That is the reason for the 
question of Pilate, "Are you the king of the Jews?" 
When he receives no clear answer to this inquiry, he 
changes the question: "So you are a king?" To this the 

64 / Believe in the Living God 

Lord now answers with a clear, "Yes, you say that I 
am a king." But what kind of king? The Roman jurist 
and statesman cannot help noticing that the issue here 
is not the state's legality and competence. "My king- 
ship is not of this world" was the answer to his first 
question. And the basis of the claim to be king runs: 
"For this I was born, and for this I have come into 
the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who 
is of the truth hears my voice." Now the statesman 
knows enough. Here he does not have to do with one 
who is grasping for the emperor's crown but with one 
who is grasping for his heart and his conscience. He 
forgets for a moment his imperial office and becomes 
a private citizen, a human being, however a human 
being who shuns this grasp from a world where he is 
powerless. He remembers suddenly his philosophical 
training which protects him from this personal grasp. 
With a half-scoffing, half-despairing confession of his 
philosophy which places all truth in question by the 
counterquestion, What is truth? he terminates the 
first conversation which became so weird for him. But 
he knows what he has to answer the Jews as an im- 
perial advocate. "I find no crime in him," Release 
him! The imperial tribunal can do nothing else than 
acquit this Jesus. 

But now the statesman has to experience that there 
is still another power besides the imperial and be- 
sides that supraxvorld power that has met him in Jesus 
the power of religious fanaticism. It roars: "Crucify 
him!" This power of religious passion is also a politi- 

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate 65 

cal danger. With it he has to reckon as a statesman. 
To the raging crowd he must throw a victim in order 
to appease it. He lets Jesus be scourged; he hands 
Him over to his soldiery that it may, so to speak, let 
its wantonness out on him for the diversion and ap- 
peasement of the fanaticism of the Jewish religion. 
The soldiers, always disposed to pranks, translate the 
court controversy into the grotesque. They force him, 
the accused Messiah, to wear a crown of thorns on his 
head, put on him a purple robe, and tender him scorn- 
ful bows between ill-treatment. 

Pilate hopes with that to have done enough for the 
Jews. Perhaps as a clever man of the world he thinks 
that the ridiculous may cool off the most intense pas- 
sion. So he leads before the people the one made ridic- 
ulous by a crown of thorns, a purple robe, and bloody 
stripes in his face. "Behold the man!" And as the 
waves of wild passion again immediately strike against 
him "Crucify, crucify!" Pilate repeats once more 
what he has to say about the matter as an imperial 
judge: "I find no crime in him." He wishes to have 
nothing more to do with him "Do with him what 
you will!" 

But once again he encounters a new element that 
has come into play. "We have a law, and by that law 
he ought to die, because he has made himself the Son 
of God." If he was previously confronted simply by re- 
ligious passion, then now it is the religious system, the 
religion of law, theological-juristic orthodoxy. In the 
system the living, present Son of God does not fit. 

66 / Believe in the Living God 

The system of religion of the Jews, secure in itself 
and making pious men secure, demands the removal 
of him who stands in the midst of them with the 
claim of divine power. One wants to have a God, but 
not one who comes too close. One wants to have a 
God with whom one can negotiate, a religion that 
consists of accomplishment and return, but not a God 
who breaks into our life as the living Lord and seizes 
upon something. Such a claim disturbs the balance of 
power; one must remove him. It can and dare not be 
that one is present who calls himself the Son of God. 

"When Pilate heard these words, he was the more 
afraid." Obviously he feels again, but this time still 
more weirdly, that grasp for his heart and conscience 
from the other world that he does not know. Should 
there really be that, a man who dares to call himself 
the Son of God? Is God a reality so near and personal? 
That is why he asks Jesus, "Where are you from?" He 
receives no answer. And when he now threateningly 
calls attention to his power to release Jesus or to 
hand him over to death on the cross, Pilate receives 
an answer which he would have last expected: "You 
would have no power over me unless it had been 
given you from above; therefore he who delivered 
me to you has the greater sin." "Upon this" so it 
continues "Pilate sought to release him." 

With that we have reached the high point of the 
story, so far as it touches on the encounter between 
the Roman governor and the Lord Jesus. We want to 
pause and ask ourselves, What has really happened 

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate 67 

here? The last words of the Lord, which obviously 
made the deepest impression of all on Pilate, show 
us that here two realms completely foreign to each 
other do not simply conflict with each other the 
Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world 
rather, that between both, different as they are, there 
is an inner bond. For the imperial Roman procura- 
tor appears here suddenly in a completely new light, 
no longer only as an opponent of Jesus in the battle 
between God's Kingdom and the world, no longer 
only as a neutral spectator who seeks to avoid the 
question of truth, and no longer only as the private 
individual disquieted by this weird truth, but as an 
instrument of the divine will. The power to con- 
demn and crucify Jesus Christ has been conferred 
upon Pilate, upon the Roman State, by God. The 
Roman State is an instrument of God; what this Ro- 
man state official does he does without knowing it is 
the commission- of God. How shall we understand 

First, we could think of what the apostle Paul has 
written later in the thirteenth chapter of the letter 
to the Romans, that all authority, all state power, is 
from God, namely, from God for the administration 
of the order of law that forces us to obey. We live in 
a hard, evil, sinful world, and the evil that lives in all 
men is of the kind that wholly annihilates us, so that 
we would mutually destroy ourselves in a struggle 
for existence if a power were not there that at least 
forces men into an external order and justice. Were 

68 / Believe in the Living God 

only the divine love effective in us, were there only 
good will among us, then we would need no state or- 
der of law to force us. The force of law is necessary 
because of our sinfulness. And now I ask you not to 
think: Certainly there are such criminal natures, such 
insubordinate subjects who do the right thing only 
when forced. Just think how difficult it is for us to 
make the sacrifices that are necessary for a just dis- 
tribution of the burdens of life in our nation. If the 
state would not compel the payment of taxes, then 
there would now be a very bad situation with regard 
to our responsibility for the poor, for the unemployed, 
for the public school. Yes, we Christians have accus- 
tomed ourselves to wait until the state forces us to do 
what should be done. And how often has the Christian 
community shown the world the shameful spectacle 
of offering resistance to certain laws of social com- 
pensation quite simply because they dug into its own 
purse. By itself the purse did not want to open; it had 
to be opened by the state. If we are not voluntarily 
ready to pay for great sacrifices in the presence of the 
underprivileged, then we shall live to see, perhaps 
through revolution, a state constitution by which we 
are not left with much of what we now call our prop- 
erty. Revolutions always come from the same source 
as the power of the state itself, namely, from the un- 
willingness to make voluntary sacrifices. The state is 
therefore the compulsory equalizer used in God's 
providence that establishes a raw, but nevertheless a 
certain, justice. Let us think when the large unwel- 

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate 69 

corned pages of the tax declaration come flying once 
again into our house that they are really a repentance 
sermon. "So hardhearted are you that you need the 
compulsory justice of the state because your volun- 
tary justice is so little." That is why the apostle Paul 
admonishes his Roman congregation to pay the taxes 
voluntarily and not merely from fear of punishment 
to be expected otherwise. For behind the tax collector 
may stand the will of God. 

The state with all its cold justice, with its force, its 
power and its compulsion, a servant of God! And in- 
deed, the pagan Roman State, which does not know 
the God who so uses it as his instrument, the Roman 
governor Pilate who does not know God and does not 
want to know him. To him God has given the power 
that he has. But with that we have not yet arrived at 
the real mystery of our text. Although the apostle 
thinks solely of the state's legal order in that thir- 
teenth chapter of Romans, which, as he says, punishes 
the evil and rewards the good, our text speaks indeed 
of the authority given by God to Pilate to crucify 
Jesus Christ, God's Son. Here is meant not the just 
state but the obviously unjust one. For in so far as 
Pilate judges the case as a Roman jurist and states- 
man, Jesus receives, indeed, a clear acquittal. Before 
the state's law Jesus is not guilty. 

Even that belongs to the mysterious powers of di- 
vine providence, that the state had to declare before 
all the world the innocence of Jesus. From the mouth 
of the Roman State's head himself the world has heard 

/yo / Believe in the Living God 

this acquittal. He is not guilty. On the contrary, it 
becomes quite clear from the last words of Jesus to 
his judge that before the divine tribunal Pilate stands 
as the accused. Jesus tells him to his face that he has 
sinned when he judged him, even if it is a smaller 
sin than that of those who have compelled this blood 
sentence from him. The roles of the accuser and the 
accused are therefore exchanged. From the examining 
judge, Pilate has suddenly become the condemned. 
The signature of Pilate under the high-priestly blood 
sentence is a judicial murder, and indeed essentially 
a premeditated one. Pilate knows quite well that he 
is acting against the law, that objective justice is not 
guiding him but anxiety about eventually unpleas- 
ant consequences that an acquittal of Jesus could have 
for him in Rome. He stands, therefore, at last as a 
weakling and judicial murderer, even though exten- 
uating circumstances are intentionally made promi- 
nent by Jesus himself. 

But in spite of the fact that it is an unjust sentence 
that is spoken out of human fear and not out of judi- 
cial consciousness, the Lord says here: "In allowing 
me to be put on the cross by a wholly unjust way 
you are acting without knowing it in the divine com- 
mission. You are carrying out God's plan. The sen- 
tence 'guilty of death,' which you are at last sign- 
ing, is also signed by God. God is leading you with 
his pen." God wants to have it thus. His Son shall be 
hung as a criminal, not only by the representatives of 
religion but also by the representative of the state. 

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate 71 

God himself strikes his Son on the cross through the 
hand of Pilate. 

Is that not a horrible thought? Yes, dear friends, 
actually horrible until we comprehend what God 
wants to tell us. All that from the arrest in the Garden 
of Gethsemane on, the spitting and ill-treatment of 
the high council, the crown of thorns, the scourging, 
the mocking, finally the tortures of the crucifixion 
and the abandonment by all, at last by God himself 
all that "Christ had to suffer." God wanted it so, 
God did that, and all the persons on the stage of this 
story of suffering Judas, Caiaphas, the roaring crowd 
of people, the soldiers, and Pilate they are all only 
instruments in God's hand who do what God wants to 
have done and what God wants to have done for our 
sakes. You can understand it only in the moment 
when you add to everything "for me." Only then 
does it cease to be horrible, only then do you notice 
that you are horrible; but God who does all this is 
the Love that seeks and saves you. 

Let us, however, turn back once more to Pilate. It 
is not just an accident that Pilate stands in the 
Apostles' Creed. With that a twofold thing is said: 
First, here the history of the world becomes the his- 
tory of God's Kingdom, and the history of God's 
Kingdom, the history of the world. Here the Lord 
of all history invades with his holy history into pro- 
fane history. The representative of the greatest world 
kingdom that has ever existed becomes here an in- 
strument in the history of redemption. So real is the 

72 / Believe in the Living God 

salvation of God and so superior love over the curse. 
That is the one thing. Secondly, Jesus Christ was not 
permitted to perish in a horrible way by choice. He 
had to be sentenced by a court. It was allowed to ex- 
ecute a death sentence on him. Why? Because you 
should be judged. This death sentence is intended for 
you, for you are deserving of death before God. You 
are a judged and condemned person. But now God 
loves you as you cannot comprehend. And to save 
you from the evil that must necessarily and rightly 
come upon you, he has surrendered his Son to this 
evil. This death is a punishment not for him but 
for you. But this punishment he takes for you so that 
you may go unpunished and receive God's love and 
eternal life if you do only one thing say yes to this 
punishment and give thanks from your heart for this 
love of God that does this for you. 

Let us in conclusion, however, meditate on those 
other little words of the creed: suffered under Pontius 
Pilate. We see the picture of this suffering before us. 
Why, then, did this have to be? Why in addition to 
death torture, and in addition to torture scorn? Of 
course even here we can only repeat the first answer: 
"All that for your sake/' But in the New Testament 
we always encounter wherever it speaks about the suf- 
fering of Christ still one other thought. The Lord 
has gone this way before us so that we may walk joy- 
fully behind him when we are faring badly; so that we 
then know: now I too may go a little of the way the 
Lord Jesus has gone for me. 

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate 73 

It will indeed be the case that the more one walks 
behind Jesus Christ as one for whom he has broken 
a pathway into new life, into God's love, the more 
one will also find it difficult. Life with Christ and for 
Christ is no promenade from joy to joy. Rather, it 
means: "He who wants to be my disciple must take up 
his cross." One cannot be a disciple without being one 
who bears a cross. That means first of all that the 
trouble that befalls us, as it does other people, we 
bear in a different spirit, namely, with secret joy be- 
neath tears that we indeed walk behind our Lord 
Jesus Christ along his way. But then it also means 
that he who really is a disciple receives special dif- 
ficulties and sufferings that follow by necessity from 
his being a disciple, so that these sufferings are there- 
fore the stamp of his discipleship. 

Not every suffering is that cross which the disciples 
must bear, of which he says, "Take it upon your- 
selves/ * but only the sufferings by which it becomes 
recognizable that we are disciples persecution on 
account of our faith, mockery, estrangement from ear- 
lier friends, branding as a hypocrite and sneak. Just 
as one recognizes a peasant by his rough hands and his 
sunburned face, so one should recognize us Christians 
by the fact that we suffer for our Lord Christ. But is 
it not true that of this there is very little to be seen 
among us? Why? Quite simply because we still take 
much too lightly our service to Christ. If a farmer 
stays at home, then he can keep his hands fine and his 
skin white; if we Christians make it comfortable for 

74 / Believe in the Living God 

ourselves to be Christians, hesitate and are afraid to 
bear witness to our Lord, squeeze around drawing 
the conclusions of our Christian faith, then we can 
escape suffering. But only so. By that every one of us 
may prove how faithfully he walks or does not walk 
behind his Lord. 

Thus to us the crown of thorns the soldiers of Pi- 
late placed on the Lord is not only the great comfort 
of Jesus, "All that I have done for you/' but also his 
earnest exhortation, "What will you now do for me?" 
Let us again and again meditate on both things, es- 
pecially in these times when the church in all the 
world awaits a time of Passion, when the whole world 
groans under the suffering of the political situation 
and is afraid of still much greater things. Let us pray 
to God that what he has sent us in the suffering and 
death of our Lord he may cause to sink so deeply in- 
to our hearts that we are able to bear the trouble 
that we have to bear in joyful obedience and without 
murmuring and falling into despair. Amen. 

VI Christ 

in Despair 

Crucified, dead, and buried; he descend- 
ed into hell. 

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eli, 
Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why hast 
thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46.) 

THE SIGHT OF death is always something frighten- 
ing. Among certain Indian tribes it is the custom that 
the old people, when they feel death to be near, leave 
their homes and look for the solitude of the wilder- 
ness in order not to defile the clean house with their 
death. If at all possible, people avoid those who are 
dying. They do not want to be reminded of the fact 
that this is the case with us, that our life all at once 
comes to this woeful and dreadful end of dying, of 


^6 / Believe in the Living God 

being buried, dissolution, annihilation. We wish to 
live, not to die, and in everything we do we are de- 
termined to make our life secure and to keep death 
at a distance. Death is thus, a true sign and indication 

QiflTOXJ^^^ dea ^ h tlie ide * that ? 

e "IfJ^God" vaiusfa^'JThere^j^ dust to 

and that's what we most hate to hear. 

Is it not "remarkable that , the picture Christianity 
again and again holds befor our eyes is, like no 
other sight, the picture of One dying? It is under- 
standable from the standpoint of the natural senses of 
the unbroken man when a Goethe flees the cross and 
when even tgdayigjm^ 

of the -^o^^^^^^^^^^^ more despised or 
KatedThan ...... prcci^ly'''^'^ 1 ....... holy picture of Christianity, 

the cross, the Man^oO-Orraws^who with a loud voice 
gives ujTthe ghost. Yes, why must we always have the 
picture of this dyin& Qneief ore ,u&? Is that not some- 
thing quite morbid, contrary to nature? 

But now it is not only the picture of One dying. 
This death has its own particular ugliness and awful- 
ness. It is a dreadful martyr's death. Through Chris- 
tian art and the custom of hearing so many beautiful 
things about the crucified One we have become in- 
sensitive to the fact that the crucifixion is one of the 
most abominable, most painful means of death that 
man has invented to make death as terrible as possible 
for the victim of his will for retribution. Only the 
hardest criminals were punished thus, and this pun- 

Christ in Despair *jj 

ishment took place in public to frighten people. It was 
a public affair to torture a man to death. With the 
pain of death the pain of torture is connected, and 
with both the public exhibition that heightens both 
and adds shame. If the sight of a dying person is 
frightening, then the sight of one hanging in pain is 
even more so. 

Jesus has really suffered death, this death, the death 
of torture, the criminal's death, the disgraceful death, 
in the presence of the whole nation. He was no Stoic 
who inures his soul so that it becomes as insensitive 
as possible to all suffering. He who is not capable of 
suffering is also not capable of loving. The one who 
fe_ most. full. o loueis^alsa.lih^^ne who is most capable 
of suffering. The more sensitively a man feels, the 
more frightening such a threefold pain must be for 
him. And yet it was not that which tormented him 
the most. He had to descend even deeper, there where 
no man could follow him with his compassion. What 
Jesus suffered, as he cast out the cry of pain, "Eli, Eli, 
lama sabachthani?" no one among us can experience, 
The Confession of Faith has only pointed to it with 
the words "descended into hell." Jesus has experi- 
enced not only the greatest fompan ? _earthlysuffering; 

After jii$pe9}e abandoned 

him,. UiJL trusted ones, his disciples, also abandoned 

It is true of course that the words, "My God, my 
God, why hast thou forsaken me?" is still a prayer, a 

78 / Believe in the Living God 

call upon God. It is the word of a psalmist, at the 
beginning of the Twenty-second Psalm, which is a 
genuine song of trust. In it you read the words, "In 
the midst of the congregation I will praise thee," and 
the words, "Yea, to him shall all the proud of the 
earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go 
down to the dust." No doubt this whole psalm re- 
sounded in Jesus' soul as he raised jche.painul ques- 
tiojajtaJbtfavea. And yet we must take seriously his 
question, "Why hast thou_forsaken me?" God^has 

** fhe real suffering of 

the rosjgjd^ 

tyrdpi$ and all loneliness^rai^j^^.^How shall we 
understand that ancTwhat does it have to say to us? 
Is it not a fact that can shake rather than strengthen 
our faith in him, the Redeemer and Son of God? How 
is^jtjgosrible that the Son of God can feel himself 
abandonedUy Go3? "*'~ ^-~ ~~ 
* TEiis, in3eecTrw<^have to ask as long as we still 
have not correctly understood who Jesus Christ is 
and what his divine commission to us and his divine 
work for us is. With this "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" 
for the first time the incarnation of God's Son has 
come to its goal. Therefore here also the contradiction 
between the gospel and all human forms of religion is 
consummated. It becomes evident that all religion 
that man himself makes has the opposite direction 
from that of the gospel. It is an ascent of man toward 
the eternal, perfect God. Up, up that is its call. God 

Christ in Despair 79 

is high above, we are down below; and now we shall 
soar by means of our moral, spiritual, and religious 
endeavors out of the earthly, human depths into the 
divine heights. This human religion corresponds en- 
tirely to other strivings of man. He wants to go up, 
to work himself upward, to go forward, to become 
happier, stronger, wiser, but also better, more pious, 
more like God, and if possible, divine. Many soon lose 
their breath along this high road; they cannot go 
farther than striving after more happiness, more 
wealth, or more pleasure. Others grasp higher; rest- 
lessly they work on their education, on their ability. 
Still others go farther; they strive for the highest goal, 
holiness. It is almost incredible what things in the 
form of privation and exertion individual men will 
take upon themselves in order to reach this highest 
goal. The religious history of the Indians and Jews 
is rich with such truly astonishing achievements. And 
yet this striving upward does not lead to the goal. 
God is too high and the evil in man too deep that 
man could reach the goal this way. The soul of man is 
crippled or stiffened and cramped in such an ascent 
to the highest height. The end is a more or less un- 
conf essed or unavowed despair, or a self-righteousness 
that leaves room neither for genuine love of God nor 
for genuine love of men. When we men wish to be 
honest, then we have to say, "We cannot reach the 
goal." We cannot become what we ought to become, 
true men. Many let the matter rest there; they con- 
fess it, but they give in to it. They make themselves 

80 / Believe in the Living God 

satisfied with half because they cannot have the whole. 
They resign because they do not yet take God's will 
very seriously, before whom there can be nothing such 
as half achievement. Goc^ 
And tJiis>Jll^ What js 

, "You shall love the Lord your 

God with all your heart, with all your soul and with 
all your mind 1 ' and, "you shall love your neighbor as 
yourself." Noonej^ 

along this way there is no good conscience, no trust- 
ing relationship with God, no inner peace, and no 
freedom of the soul. 

But God has in his mercy shown us a completely 
different way. *^Mericannot come ^Pj^Jg^^ 

go down to themAnanowj escenastousmen. 
That Is the content of the Bibfe/that is the gospel of 
Jesus Christ the way of God to us. The good shep- 
herd goes after his lost sheep which cannot find him 

really fulfill becomes man for our sakes 

in order to bring us his love which we ourselves could 
not reach. "God becomes maa !U ^ 
This act of becoming man begins at Christmas and 
ends on Good Friday. The gospel of Jesus Christ is 
the record of how God comes down and into the 
sphere of the human to bring us his divine life. 

But now God does it otherwise than we would do 
it. He does all the work. He really goes to the end. 
He reaches the goal. To be sure, this end is exactly the 

Christ in Despair 81 

opposite of what we ourselves fix as a goal. We wish 
to climb up to heaven; God, however, descends 
down to where? To death on the cross, says the 
apostle. "He emptied himself, taking the form of 
a servant, . . . humbled himself and became obedient 
unto death." That is his way down to us. For our sit- 
uation is indeed determined by death. We must all 
die. AUj)Uj^exertion$ end with death. Finally, there- 
f rvrf !ijl^I^ gi V**^- 1 t't-^anip^nmTr 1 if r That is why 
Christ must die in order to come completely into our 

But he had to go still farther down, "to death on 
the cross," to penal death. For we have all deserved 
this penal death through our unfaithfulness to God. 
If God would deal with us according to the law, then 
we would all have to die the painful penal death that 
Jesus has died. Yet even that is still not the final thing. 
If God would deal with us according to the law, then 
we would have to suffer not only the penal death but 
also this penal death in despair, in complete separa- 
tion from God, in hell. That is why Jesus Christ had 
to descend into hell. He had to go the way to its very 
end. There is no one here who has not deserved hell. 
The rightful end of man is hell, that is, banishment 
away from God Godforsakenness. There_only has 
God completelyjcome to jj&, iJoi^ej^iieK tl^ has taken 
upon^EImseH ^"everything^jeyeaJth^ OTSdE^ 
way. Hell w j*5i^^ But we all 

have an idea"^Fwhat^ Hell is uncon- 

ditional, irrevocable Godforsakenness, JDT uncogdi- 

82 / Believe in the Living God 

tional^desgdr. Something of this despair we all know, 
but the complete despair we have not yet experi- 
enced and we do not have to suffer it, thanks to what 
Jesus Christ has suffered and done for us. But we 
should know that he has suffered helljor us. That we 
should know just then when we feel ourselves near 

Dear friends, that is why our Lord and Savior has 
descended into hell, so that we do not have to live in 
hell. He has had to press forward to the deepest point 
"Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" so that we do not 
have to call, "My God, my God, why hast thou for- 
saken me?" For, when we are so troubled that we 
think: Now I am there in hell, now I am really in des- 
pair, now God has completely forsaken me, now I can 
no longer have hope, now everything is over see, 
then we should hear from the cross, "Eli, Eli ... " and 
know he is with us in this hell, and because he is with 
us, there is therefore indeed no hell. God^iswith me; 

that IS why there is im longer any Hpspaiy fpr |p* 

Thus God has done all the work so that there is noth- 
ing in this world, not even the darkest thing, that he 
has not also gone through, no place in which he has 
not lodged. Only one thing is excepted, sin. There 
he never was; otherwise he would have denied him- 
self. Indeed, he who stands completely in God's serv- 
ice along this path into the depths cannot all at once 
step out of the service of God and sin. In sin, there- 
Eore, we have no fellowship with him. There alone he 
is not. 

Christ in Despair 83 

But it is just there where we are in need of him so 
much, you say. For, when something drives us into 
despair, it is just then that we again and again do 
something evil, are disobedient, do not do God's will, 
transgress his commandments, make a pact with the 
devil, think, say, and do exactly what we should not 
think, say, and do. What use is all that to me about 
the descent of the Savior to us if he is not there with 
us where we have the greatest need of him? Here it is 
well to be careful that we do not again lose everything 
in the end. Jesus Christ has gone on the cross for the 

sake of our sin. He^ has not comej^ 

you, for we reaflyl^ed^no^S^^^^^Jtb,It that we 
may tod a compani^ there are more 

than enough. Rather, so that you may have God for 
the kind of companion in sin who pulls you out of the 
curse of sin and redeems you from the guilt of sin, 
For that reason, Jesus Christ has gone into hell in or- 
der to get us out of there. For along with everything 
he does, that is his goal, that he may get us out, bring 
us to God, bind us to God, reconcile us with God, and 
fill us with God's Spirit. He had to despair of God 
for us so that we do not have to despair of God, just 
as he had to die the penal death so that we may be- 
come free of the punishment. He has taken all that 
upon himself so that we may become free of it. 

Jesus has come to us and for us in hell, just as a 
troubled wife goes into the inn late Saturday night 
because she knows that she will meet there her hus- 
band who is spending his whole payday in drinking. 

84 / Believe in the Living God 

Truly, she does not go in to drink with her husband 
but to get him out of the company that is ruining 
him and his whole family. So the Lord has descended 
into hell for us in order to deliver us from it. See, just 
as he carries the burden of guilt for you so that you 
can come again to God as if you had no guilt, so he 
also comes into your despair so that you may know: 
even there he will meet with me; even that was to 
him not too jar^awj^omjC^; even ther^Qjie, can 
still be" wite4 with God thrqu^x him. Jesus Christ 
has therefore come into everything human, even into 
the most terrible, so that there may be no place of 
man, no human experience, no difficulty, no situa- 
tion, where there is no relationship with God. Every- 
where he has already beforehand restored the relation- 
ship; everywhere you can call upon him, even in the 
deepest misery; whether it is the misery of your life, 
of the world, of mankind, or of the world events be- 
yond your understanding, you can arid you should 
know: even there the Lord Jesus is, even there he 
gets us out with his love. 

When we speak of God's omnipresence, then we 
think of the omnipresence of his power. When we 
speak of Jesus Christ, quite particularly of the cruci- 
fied One who cries, "My God, my God, why hast thou 
forsaken me?" then we think of the omnipresence of 
the divine mercy. That is what we must above all 
hear today in a time when despair is often so near us. 
Precisely that which seems at first terrible and least 
comforting to us, this word of pain and despair from 

Christ in Despair 85 

the cross, becomes the supreme comfort and the great- 
est help for us. For when God is near us with his com- 
fort, then he is also near us with his saving help which 
makes us new. When we really and completely let our- 
selves be addressed by God, "See, I am also there with 
you/' then that is also the best help for coming out, 
the only help against sin, against disobedience. When 
I become certain that Jesus Christ is with me then, 
and then alone, am I armed against evil. Then and 
then alone can I really do God's will. So let it then 
be said to you by him who has gone before you in 
everything: "You are in despair, behold, I have my- 
self experienced all despair of the world." That is 
why you need not despair and may despair no longer. 
For "if God is for us, who is against us?" Amen. 

VII Easter 


The third day he rose again from the 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By 
his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope 
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (I 
Peter 1:3.) 

TWO THINGS THERE are that today determine 
the thinking and emotions of men: anxiety about 
death and hopelessness. No wonder! It is to be ex- 
pected of them as of one who is surprised by bad 
weather upon an open field: right and left the light- 
ning strikes; from second to second he must fear be- 
ing hit and struck. The catastrophe can come upon us 
tomorrow; there are no safe places any longer; we are 


Easter Certainty 87 

on an open field and must surrender to whatever 
comes. The other thing is still more evil. Namely, a 
feeling of complete hopelessness has come over many. 
There is no more justice in world history: evil tri- 
umphs; there is no more sense in living. Both these 
feelings indeed contradict each other, for if life is no 
longer worth-while, why then should one have anxiety 
about death? But what heart bothers itself about con- 
tradictions? It shelters both, anxiety about life and 
weariness of life, fearful cares about the preservation 
of one's life and hopelessness. Is there a means of 
healing this double sickness? 

"Blessed be ... God. . . . We have been born anew 
to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus 
Christ from the dead." The Easter message is God's 
answer to our question. If the nations would hear it, 
then they should hear it as it is meant in the New Tes- 
tament; then it would help them. If we this morning 
are really able to hear it as God's answer to our ques- 
tion, then it will help us. 

When ttie apostle Peter praises God's mercy, that 
God has born us anew to a living hope, he is telling 
us that we by ourselves do not have such a living hope, 
that on the contrary our usual condition is one of 
hopelessness. Anxiety about death and a secret despair 
over the fact that with death everything is over is not 
only today but has at all times been the basic feeling 
of men. It comes forth very clearly today only because 
one can no longer hide himself very well behind all 
sorts of premature securities. If we keep in mind this 

88 / Believe in the Living God 

anxiety about death, this weird, meaningless goal of 
life, many things in human existence become under- 
standable that one could otherwise hardly under- 
stand. You know how it is when suddenly during a 
theatrical performance fire breaks out, how panic 
comes over the men, how they all rush to the doors, 
crowding together, how one out of anxiety seeks to 
hit the other with his feet and elbows for fear he could 
be too late. That is a picture of human life in gen- 
eral; anxiety that one will be too late or that he will 
come off a loser makes otherwise very good-natured 
men brutal; anxiety that one could lose a place in the 
sun lies at the bottom of all wars; it is the original 
cause of the wild, harsh competitive struggle in busi- 
ness life; it makes men mutual enemies. It is anxiety 
that the door will be closed j the anxiety that arises 
from the thought that death is coming and that with 
death everything is over. 

In the world you have anxiety, says the Lord. The 
world is too small for our hunger for life; anxiety is 
narrowness of soul, lack of space for the soul in this 
narrow, transitory world; where men have merely 
this short life before them, which ends with death, 
there anxiety comes over them, panic that the door 
will be closed, and from this all evil and brutality. 
But from this comes also vice, the seeking of pleasure, 
the demand for newer and newer attractions. As one 
who has anxiety that he will receive no more to eat 
for a long time gulps down his food as fast as pos- 
sible, so we must, when we have anxiety about death, 

Easter Certainty 89 

suck into ourselves as fast as possible the pleasures of 
life. Anxiety about death and the soul's hopelessness 
works like the vacuum of a suction pump. Were the 
soul filled with hope, then it would not be so greedy. 
Even greed stems, as does harshness, from anxiety that 
the door will be closed. "Let us eat and drink, for to- 
morrow we die." 

Man is the unhappy human being who is able to 
think and must think beyond the moment to death 
and beyond that, and yet knows nothing beyond 
death. That is why without really knowing it his life 
is stamped with anxiety about death and with hope- 
lessness. He must always ask about the afterward and 
yet does not know what comes afterward or whether 
anything at all comes. That is his misery. 

Are we, therefore, quite simply to deplore the fact 
that we are so unhappily created, created with the 
wish for eternity and yet without the certainty of eter- 
nity? Would we, therefore, complain to the Creator 
that he has so created us? Indeed, we have not set 
ourselves in this world in which death is the last 
thing, where we must therefore be anxious. And yet 
we notice that in this reckoning something is not 
right; we are anxious not because we live in the world 
but because we live in the world without God. That 
we forget God, that we reckon only with the world 
and not with the reality of God this godlessness 
which is called sin in the Bible this is the basis of 
our anxiety. 

That is why this is especially great today, and in 

go / Believe in the Living God 

consequence of it, also the greed for pleasure and the 
struggle for a place in life. The more men forget God, 
the more therefore does the world become the one 
and only thing for them this world which ends with 
death the more panic that the door will close comes 
over them. That is why insanity is particularly great 
in the world today, because forgetting God has spread 
widely and become common. But why do men forget 
God, why do they not believe in him and in his Word? 
Let us ask ourselves quite personally: Why do we 
again and again forget God? Why do we again and 
again reckon merely with the world and worldly 
things and not with God? Why do you again and 
again fall into this panic about the door closing and 
into everything that follows from panic? Because you 
want to be your own lord. 

Indeed, men have given quite different reasons why 
they do not believe: the injustice in the world, doubts 
which come from scientific thinking, higher educa- 
tion, and what else? These are all evasions. I cannot 
believe, you say; there are too many doubts standing 
in the way. Quite right; but the doubts stand in the 
way of faith only because you will not stop being your 
own lord. No man has ever doubted and not believed 
for any other reason than this one. The will not to 
obey God, sin, is therefore the deepest reason for 
anxiety about life. 

That is why anxiety cannot be overcome otherwise 
than by the overcoming of sin. Inseparably sin, anx- 
iety, and hopelessness belong together on the one 

Easter Certainty 91 

side, and faith, peace, and hope on the other side. We 
can be redeemed from hopelessness and born anew to 
a living hope only by being redeemed from godless- 
ness and reconciled and united anew with God. The 
Easter message belongs together with the message of 
Good Friday. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not put 
together from many pieces; it is, as John very mean- 
ingfully says of the garment of Jesus, from one piece 
without a seam. Only he who beforehand has been 
reconciled to God can really believe in the Easter 
message, so that it becomes a living hope. One cannot 
deal directly with hopelessness and anxiety about 
death but only in such a way that one deals with the 
basis of it. It stems from a disturbed relation with 
God; it can only be removed if the relation to God is 
restored, if we are reconciled to God and are at peace 
with him through the cross of Jesus Christ. See, that 
is why it does not help much if one simply believes 
in the resurrection record of the Gospels, what one 
calls believing in such case. Among the many mil- 
lions who have from their childhood believed and 
never doubted it, there are also many millions in 
whose life this so-called faith in the resurrection 
means nothing at all. Their faith is simply a piece 
of their world picture; they believe that Jesus is 
raised from the dead, as they believed that earlier lake 
dwellers lived in our land or that the earth is a ball. 
Despite this faith in the Easter event, they suffer just 
as others from anxiety about life, and fight, just as 
those who believe nothing, brutally and greedily from 

92 / Believe in the Living God 

the door-closing panic for their place in life. Why? 
Just because they are not reconciled to God, because 
this Easter faith does not come from the experience 
of reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. They 
have not made their peace with God; thus they also 
have no peace in their life. If they had peace with 
God, then their anxiety would also disappear, and 
with their anxiety the struggle for a place in life. One 
cannot be born again to a living hope through the 
resurrection of Jesus from the dead if one is not born 
again through Jesus Christ's act of reconciliation. 

On the other hand, many say: How can I believe in 
the Easter message of the resurrection? I cannot know 
for certain whether that is true which the Gospels 
record; I cannot go back and prove it. And if I would 
simply force myself to believe it because it is recorded 
in the Bible assuming that I could so force myself 
how would that help me? That would not give me a 
joyful, living hope. They are entirely right. Such a 
faith whose authority is merely history has no worth. 
The real Easter faith does not come from the fact that 
one believes the report of the apostle without doubt- 
ing; rather, it comes from the fact that one is recon- 
ciled to God through Jesus Christ. This reconciliation 
is not a mere belief but a rebirth, a new life. Through 
this reconciliation, godlessness and anxiety are rooted 
out and one becomes a new man. From this reconcilia- 
tion through Jesus Christ faith in his resurrection 
from the dead arises of itself. 

Some people have already tried to force them- 

Easter Certainty 93 

selves to believe in what the Bible reports of the res- 
urrection of Jesus. But it was not so simple. Always 
doubt interfered; and then one thought that doubt 
for example, scientific doubt in the possibility of such 
a miracle was the basis of his inability to believe. 
That goes without saying. Some of the greatest scien- 
tists of all times have believed in the resurrection, just 
as an apostle of early Christianity. Perhaps you also 
belong to those who would like to believe, who would 
also like to have this hope of eternal life. But you say 
you cannot. I wish to tell you precisely why you can- 
not believe, and I also wish to tell you how you can 
believe. You cannot believe it because you are not 
reconciled to God, and you are not reconciled to God 
because you do not really wish to repent for your 
godlessness. All unbelief without any exception comes 
from this unwillingness to obey, from the unwilling- 
ness of sin that separates us from God. In the moment 
when you do that and sincerely acknowledge your 
sins, then you can also believe in the reconciliation; 
no, in this moment you are reconciled to God through 
Jesus Christ and -the truth of the Easter message is 
clear to you. Then you believe in the resurrection, not 
because it is reported by the apostles but because the 
resurrected One himself encounters you in a living 
way as he who unites you with God, as the living 
Mediator. Now you yourself know it: he lives, he, the 
Reconciler and Redeemer. 

And now the stories of Easter become alive to you, 
worthy of belief, for you now recognize in them him 

g4 / Believe in the Living God 

who encounters you yourself. Now you believe not 
only in Easter; now the Easter certainty is for you a 
living experience. Now you can say with the apostle: 
Blessed be the God who has born me anew to a living 
hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. 
Were Jesus not resurrected, how could he redeem and 
reconcile you? When he reconciles you to God, you 
have encountered him, the resurrected One, not bod- 
ily, as did the apostle, but not really any less so, 
through his Word and his Spirit. Now you already 
stand at the beginning of the new, eternal life. Now 
you know what the Lord means when he says: "He 
who believes in me has eternal life." Upon that, every- 
thing therefore depends: being reconciled to God, for- 
giveness of sins, removal of the separation between 
you and God, joyful access to God, and peace with 
God through Jesus Christ who gives you on the cross 
the Father's love and with it eternal life. 

Let us also look at it from the other side. One can- 
not say: Certainty of God, union with God, peace 
with God in Jesus Christ I have, but certainty of eter- 
nal life I do not have. For I do not know what will be 
after death. Of that no one knows anything certain. 
See, as long as you talk so, you are not really recon- 
ciled to God, you have not experienced the living 
Christ. For in the moment when he really encounters 
you as the living One, in uniting you with God, you 
also take part in his eternal life and the Easter mes- 
sage becomes a living certainty for you. As we said 
before, one cannot have Easter without Good Friday; 

Easter Certainty 95 

so we must also say now, one cannot have Good Fri- 
day without Easter. For if Christ is not resurrected, 
how can he reconcile you with God? "If Christ is not 
resurrected, you are still in your sins." But if you are 
really reconciled to him, then you yourself have also 
become a witness to his resurrection. 

For then you can say: "I know that my Redeemer 
lives/' A dead person cannot be your Redeemer. 
When he shows himself to you as the living Presence, 
he speaks to you: "I live and you shall also live." He 
has not redeemed you in order then to allow you 
again to be corrupted in death; rather, he has re- 
deemed you so that nothing, not even death, can sep- 
arate you from him. When he redeems you from sin, 
he also redeems you from death. When he gives him- 
self to you, he also gives you the promise and begin- 
ning of eternal life. That and nothing else is the way 
to the true certainty of Easter. That is why it is use- 
less to proclaim to the world: Christ is resurrected; 
that you must simply believe. For the answer to this 
sermon is always: "The message I hear very well; 
only faith is lacking." The way to the faith of Easter 
crosses over reconciliation with God; but reconcilia- 
tion with God takes place through the resurrected 
One who unites you with God in a living way. 

But this certainty of Easter gives one's whole life a 
new meaning. It is foolish to say, I have no time to be 
bothered with eternal life, for I already have enough 
to do with the present. You fool, you will never be 
finished with the present life; you will always remain 

96 / Believe in the Living God 

in anxiety about life and in panic until you have been 
reconciled to God and are certain of eternal life. But 
if you are reconciled to God and certain of eternal 
life, then you are also freed from anxiety about life 
and all that which follows from it. The temporal, 
passing life ceases to be the only important thing for 
you. Yes, it even ceases to be the most important 
thing; you notice now that it is only a preparatory 
school of the true life. Precisely through this, you be- 
come genuinely free to live for other men in this life 
and to create something genuine. The genuine joy 
of Easter makes men happy and loving, men who are 
free from the terrible panic that the door will close, 
the panic that makes all other men unfree, unhappy, 
and loveless. 

But why is there so little of this new kind of life 
among Christians? There is no other answer at all 
than this: Because they are not truly reconciled to 
God. Because they have no genuine peace* And that 
means: because they have not genuinely repented or 
have fallen again from repentance and reconciliation. 
But there is no other way out of this half Christianity 
unworthy of belief than this: into the reconciliation, 
back and down to the cross of Jesus Christ! There and 
there alone lies the genuine joy of Easter and the 
certainty of Easter ready for us all. 

It is therefore not true, dear friends, that eternal 
life is an uncertain thing. Eternal life is just as cer- 
tain as the forgiveness of sins is certain for us, as we 
are reconciled with God. We, of course, cannot con- 

Easter Certainty 97 

ceive of eternal life just as we cannot conceive of 
God. But just as little as that hinders us from trust- 
ing and loving God, just as little does our inability 
to conceive of eternal life prevent the certainty and 
joy of hope. It suffices to know that there will be per- 
fect life and perfect communion with God. To the 
degree, however, that we are certain of eternal life, 
we will be finished with the difficulties of this tem- 
poral life. Therefore that is the real meaning of this 
temporal life, that we grow into the eternal life so 
that this temporal life may show something of the 
glory of eternal life. Therefore let us shout: "Take 
the eternal life to which you are called!" Amen. 


Living Lord 

He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on 
the right hand of God the Father 

// then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that 
are above, where Christ w, seated at the right hand of God. 
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that 
are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with 
Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you 
also will appear with him in glory. (Col. 3:1-4.) 

IN THESE FEARFUL days when small, peaceful na- 
tions have become the victims of a brutal will-to- 
power, the question arises in Christendom anew: 
Where is God? Is there no justice any longer? Can 
one still believe in an almighty God of love? We can- 
not question so. We can believe; we do not merely 

The Living Lord 99 

believe, we know, that this God who is almighty and 
loving is the reality above all other realities. But we 
also can and should ask nothing else but: Why that? 
What does God want that he allows all these terrible 
things to happen? Our text gives us the answer: Set 
your mind on things that are above! If we survey the 
history of humanity or at least that part of human- 
ity which one perhaps calls Christendom over the 
last two or three centuries and understand its present 
condition as the result of this history, one thing be- 
comes clear to us: the nations have completely for- 
gotten to seek the things that are above. What identi- 
fies the so-called normal life of our generation is, on 
the contrary, a radical this-worldliness present per- 
haps as never before. Marxists and communists along 
with the bourgeois godless have reproached Christen- 
dom again and again with the charge that it preaches 
to the poor an otherworldliness in order to divert 
them from the injustices and the misery of this-world 
and so transform into religious devotion the feeling 
of indignation against the injustice that comes to 
them from their exploitation. Religion is the opium 
of the masses, they said. There may be just something 
in that, that the Christian hope of eternity was mis- 
used by the privileged classes. But those enemies of 
faith have not considered how precisely this radical 
this-worldliness which they preach and whose basis 
and goal is materialism is the strongest motive behind 
such unjust exploitation. The more this-worldly men 
become, the more violent and unscrupulous they be- 

ioo / Believe in the Living God 

come. For i they have only the life of this-world be- 
fore them, they at least want to enjoy this life as much 
as possible, and in this race for the greatest possible 
enjoyment and the greatest possible power the most 
brutal always win; the masses of the weak, however, 
become their victims. That one sees clearly enough 
today precisely in the states that have made this rad- 
ical this-worldliness their philosophy of state. When 
they do not trouble themselves at all about an eternal 
life, men allow themselves to be consumed in the 
chase after the goods of this world; and this pursuit 
of earthly goods as the single purpose of life makes 
the individual as well as nations, in private life, in 
business life as well as in politics, brutal, unscrupu- 
lous, hard, and common. This radical this-worldliness 
makes every man a competitor, and so leads to con- 
flict between all men. When even in our nation there 
is so much quarreling and stench among those above 
as well as those below, in the so-called good bourgeois 
circles as well as among the so-called proletarian 
masses, it is due to the fact that men no longer know 
anything else but the earthly goods of this life, that 
they seek only the things that are below. The con- 
sequence of this process of radical this-worldliness is 
what we are experiencing today. "Whatever a man 
sows, that he will also reap/' A humanity that sows 
what is below must also reap what comes from below. 
That is one side of the matter. Humanity reaps today 
what it has sown in the last decades and centuries. 
But along with the fact that God allows all this to 

The Living Lord 101 

come upon us, he wills something with us. He wills to 
awake us with it, to jolt us awake from this devastat- 
ing illusion about life. Dear friends, I have, if I may 
think about us, the Swiss people, much more anxiety 
about the fact that we are again remaining exempt 
from the hardships that others have to go through 
than about the fact that we are getting into great dif- 
ficulties. The worst thing that could happen to us 
would be that we might come through this time of 
cold war simply unmolested. Then we would belong, 
namely, to those who have in the deepest sense lost 
the cold war. We would not be jolted awake from 
what is our corruption, from the striving for only 
what is below. Nobody can wish that we be drawn into 
war; but we must for that reason pray that we shall 
have to participate in the general suffering at least 
so far that we will be jolted awake. That God wills; 
that is why he allows all this to happen. For mankind, 
it is simply necessary to experience once again in a 
quite terrible, evident, and grievous way how worth- 
less all these earthly things finally are, how perish- 
able, how hollow, how unable to give us real life; 
for mankind it is necessary that once again all world- 
ly securities be taken from it so that it may learn to 
turn to God. 

We who are here, the Christian community, should 
indeed not have to learn it only in this dreadful way. 
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the 
things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the 
right hand of God." The Christian community should 

102 / Believe in the Living God 

be recognizable by the fact that its members are not 
like others who seek what is below, that they are not 
like the others who chase after the goods of this earth 
as if everything depended upon them, that they are 
not like the others who lose themselves in the world. 
That, Christians of all times have heard, read in the 
Bible, and therefore also known. But they obviously 
have not given others this impression. They have also 
taken part in this mad race and are therefore equally 
responsible for what has happened in our times. And 
every one of us, when he considers his own part, has 
to confess: That includes me. I, too, have not lived as 
one who first of all seeks the Kingdom of God and the 
righteousness thereof; rather, I have sunk into the 
world, have allowed the things that are below to cap- 
ture me and have forgotten the things that are above 
in spite of my Christian life. We have become 
worldly Christians, 

Only one thing and that is the main thing: how 
many of us dare affirm about ourselves that faith and 
hope in eternal life are the joy and strength of our 
present life? There are, indeed, those who like to 
dream of an eternal life, occupying themselves with 
it in their phantasy. But this disposition of this-world- 
liness is pure sentimentality: it does not lead to deeds; 
it does not therefore also make us free of worldly at- 
tachments, or free for love's service to others. Most 
people, however, do not think at all or do not like to 
think about death even though they claim to be Chris- 
tians. We do not live at all, as the apostle Paul meant 

The Living Lord 103 

this and as we observe it in him as his own experi- 
ence, in the joyful expectation of what lies on the 
other side of the threshold of death. Indeed, we be- 
lieve in the eternal life, but this faith is more on the 
periphery than in the center of our interest; it is not 
the motivating power, not the enduring basis of our 
life. That is why we still depend much too much on 
the things of this-world: some on money and posses- 
sions; others on pleasures of a finer or coarser nature, 
on men and their opinion of us, on our favorite pur- 
suits, on our children or our wives, on our professions, 
on our business or, quite simply on this life. We 
cannot say with Paul: I should like to depart and be 
with Christ. Most of us are just as anxious about death 
as the others who do not believe. And now we wish 
to allow the word of our text to tell us what is the 
original cause of this condition. 

Two things the apostle says, which we still re- 
member from the church's festival days: You have 
died and have been raised with Christ, and your life 
is hid with Christ in God. To have died with Christ 
that is the message of Good Friday; to have been 
raised with Christ, that is the message of Easter. The 
death of Jesus Christ is for us nothing if we have not 
died with him; the resurrection of our Lord is for us 
nothing if we have not been raised with him. Really 
to have heard, believed, and accepted the Good Fri- 
day message means to die with Christ; and really to 
have heard, believed, and accepted the Easter message 
means to have been raised with him. The message and 

104 / Believe in the Living God 

this faith belong together; without this faith that 
means, however, "without this dying-with and being- 
raised-with" the message remains dead for us, un- 
fruitful, a mere knowledge of the head without power 
in our life. And now, is it really the case that we have 
died with Christ? We have all indeed experienced 
something of what it means to repent for our sins and 
to seek forgiveness for them. We have all indeed ex- 
perienced something of what it means that our sins 
are forgiven, that we may regard them as taken away 
through the cross of the Lord. We are no longer 
heathen; we believe in what has happened on Good 
Friday. But dare we say with the apostle that we have 
died with Christ? See, if that were true, then we would 
no longer be bound to the things of the world as we 
actually are. To die with Christ is to make no more 
claim on life but to live only from what God gives in 
life. We, however, are still full of claims; we still 
grab so much for ourselves and say: That belongs to 
me; that goes to me; to that I have a right; that I must 
have unconditionally. Thus we have only gone, as it 
were, to the grave of Jesus; we have not really climbed 
down into it, however; we are not, as it says in the 
letter to the Romans, buried with him. A will-to-live 
of our own is still there which has not yielded to God 
but lives completely by a power of its own. If we had 
really died with Christ, then there would be in us no 
more seeking, greediness, obstinacy, this stubborn 
clinging to possessions, this lack of consideration in 
the assertion of our worldly and spiritual claims. 

The Living Lord 105 

There is still something unbroken in us, something 
that still has not come into the divine smelting fur- 
nace. There is still a part of our being that will not 
at all be surrendered into the death of Christ but 
stands on a power and will and right of its own, as- 
serts itself and does not at all think of abdicating. This 
part we must uncover and carry to the cross and grave 
of Christ. "Those who belong to Christ/' so it says in 
the letter to the Galatians, "have crucified the flesh 
with its passions and desires." The flesh, however, is 
nothing else than our attachment to the world. To be 
crucified, dead in that way, does not mean to have 
no more interests in the world and in what goes on 
in the world; rather, it means to have no longer a 
will of one's own but to receive everything from God 
and to see, will, and do everything from God's stand- 

When that happens, so the apostle tells us, then the 
second thing also happens, the resurrection with 
Christ, For to be crucified with Christ is to know and 
to experience in him the One who forgives us our sins 
and reconciles us with God. He who, however, expe- 
riences through Jesus Christ the forgiveness of sins 
and reconciliation with God encounters in this way 
the resurrected, living, present Lord. Many have 
asked for years as I myself have, What does that mean, 
to experience the living Christ? The answer that the 
Scriptures give us I may pass on to you as one I am 
myself experiencing: We experience the living Christ 
when we encounter him beneath the cross as the One 

io6 / Believe in the Living God 

who reconciles us with God, through whom we receive 
peace with God. The cross is the place where God 
has condescended to be merciful to us, wills to en- 
counter us, and where alone we can encounter him. 
We can encounter God only then if we ourselves de- 
scend from our high horse and pray as sinful men for 
forgiveness and purification. When we, however, expe- 
rience there through Jesus Christ this forgiveness 
and this purification, he is no longer to us merely 
one crucified nineteen hundred years ago at 
Golgotha but the living, present Lord who is raised 
from the dead, ascended into heaven, and seated at 
the right hand of God. Dear friends, we can indeed 
only stammer these things full of mystery. Our mind 
is capable of grasping them only quite imperfectly, 
even when we reflect upon them in faith. But all that 
is not given to us so that we grasp it with the mind 
but so that it becomes a reality of life to us. "For 
Jesus Christ has died and been raised and become 
alive again that he may be Lord over the dead and 
the living." For this reason Jesus Christ has come 
into the world so that we, united with him and 
through him with God, "live henceforth not to our- 
selves but to Him who died for us and is raised." That 
is the new life, the life in which we no longer live by 
ourselves and for ourselves but by him and for him 
who is our Lord and Creator. 

That is why it is: either we men live wrongly or 
live rightly. To live wrongly is to live by oneself and 
for oneself; to live rightly is to live by God and for 

The Living Lord 107 

God, but also for our neighbor. Or, what is really the 
same: it does matter whether in our life we make 
ourselves lord and master or whether God is our 
Lord. From our standpoint we all wish, without ex- 
ception, to be our own lord; the other, however, that 
God becomes our Lord happens only and alone 
through the fact that we are crucified with the cruci- 
fied One and raised to new life with the resurrected 
One, in reconciliation with God. Only through this 
death of the old man can we arrive at the new, true 

So we must understand this remarkable word of 
the apostle: you have died and your life is hid with 
Christ in God. It is through the death of the sovereign 
"I" that God becomes the true sovereign in us. God's 
lordship in us, however, is the true life, the life in 
which we are created, the life in and with God. Both, 
however, that death and this life, we can receive only 
through Jesus Christ, the crucified and resurrected 

And now let us return to the beginning: "Seek the 
things that are above/* We by ourselves cannot seek 
the things that are above; the weight of our sin is 
heavy; sinful greed always holds us chained to this 
world. We are sold into sin, as the Bible says, and 
thereby into seeking the world. We must be bought 
free through Christ, which happens through the fact 
that we die with him the crucified One and are raised 
with him the resurrected One. When that happens, 
it is meaningful to say, "Seek the things that are 

io8 / Believe in the Living God 

above*'; before, it is meaningless. "If then you have 
been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, 
where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." 
Now we wish to translate that "seeking" another way: 
that which matters to you, you seek. Is it money or 
honor or pleasure or comfort that matters to you or 
does it matter to you that God's will is done, that his 
Kingdom comes, that his name is hallowed? He who 
is united with Christ, to him it matters that God's 
and not his own will is done, that God and not he 
himself is honored, that God and not he himself is 

And now the apostle says one last thing. When this 
conversion takes place within you, then you know also 
that death cannot get the better of you, that, rather 
on the other side of death the eternal glory awaits 
you. Take this just once as a test whether you are 
really united with Christ, whether to you eternal life 
has become a certainty, whether you have no more 
anxiety about death, because you think with unspeak- 
able joy on the fact that on the other side of this 
world of death is the world of perfect life, your home. 
Perhaps you say: "Yes, sometimes that is the case with 
me, sometimes it is a comfort to me in the midst of 
all these dreadful things which are now happening 
that someday, indeed, the Kingdom of God and 
eternal life will come. But then this hope fades away 
and I am again anxious/' See, that is a sign of the 
fact that you do indeed believe, that you are indeed 
united with Christ, but that this faith and this union 

The Living Lord log 

are still weak. It is like a telephone connection that 
is there, but the electric current is too weak; one in- 
deed hears the voice of the other, but it is weak and 
unclear. What does one do then? One attends to the 
disturbance and does not slacken until the trouble is 
removed and one hears the voice on the other end 
clearly. We have so little certainty and joy of eternal 
life because Christ has not truly become our Lord, 
and Christ has not truly become our Lord because 
we are not truly reconciled with God, because we do 
not truly want our seeking of the world to be be- 
neath the cross. We must, as Paul expounds in the 
continuation of this third chapter, so to speak, slay 
every one of our members, not only the whole man 
in one lump. That is, we must hand over to Christ 
all our life's functions our thinking, feeling, and 
willing, our imagination as well as our activity and 
inactivity, our sleeping and waking so that he may 
forgive us and purify us, as it were one piece after an- 
other just, indeed, as one climbs into the bath as a 
whole man but then, however, washes and cleans one 
member after another. So we must hand over the 
whole man to Christ the Lord, but then also one thing 
after another, what belongs to us and what we live 
on, so that we may receive back from him purified 
the whole man, but also again one piece after another. 
With all this, however, we always want to keep and 
should keep before our eyes the goal of all this: God's 
eternal goal, the glory in eternity. The more we re- 
ceive the air of eternity into our soul, the more the 

no / Believe in the Living God 

anxiety of the world and attachment to the world 
disappear. The more we know ourselves as citizens 
and heirs of the eternal world of God, the more we 
shall shame ourselves for being addicted to things and 
for making things important that have hitherto so 
terribly captivated us. We must so grow into the 
picture of eternal life that is revealed to us through 
Christ that we become "disgusted ones" with what 
does not agree with God's Lordship. This outlook 
brings us under the Lordship of Christ just as, on the 
other hand, we have first gained this outlook through 
the Lordship of Christ. Let us take nothing else in 
the world as seriously as the promise of eternal life 
for all who have him as Lord thus we shall also re- 
ceive the victory over what has hitherto bound us to 
the things that are below. "If then you have been 
raised with Christ, seek the things that are above." 

IX How Do We Receive 
the Holy Spirit? 

I believe in the Holy Ghost. 

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said 
to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we 
do?" And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every 
one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of 
your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For 
the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are 
far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him." And 
he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, 
"Save, yourselves from this crooked generation" So those who 
received his word were baptized, and there were added that day 
about three thousand souls. (Acts 

NO DOUBT IN these days there is much praying. 
When as an individual and as a nation one sees him- 
self standing so completely on the outside, what else 


112 I Believe in the Living God 

can one do to stop the torrent of calamity which, hav- 
ing burst from hellish depths, is discharging itself 
over the world? 

For what are people praying? Surely most are pray- 
ing that our land will be spared from war. We cannot 
do otherwise, and it is indeed even right to do so. 
Only we ourselves must be conscious of the fact that 
we are not helped thereby. There is still something 
worse than war in one's land that is the spiritual 
decay of the nation. Many are praying that this time 
of conflicts and anxiety will come to an end; that also 
we cannot neglect to do, but we should still not de- 
ceive ourselves about the fact that there could be a 
condition of mankind that would be still more dread- 
ful than world war. Slavery, living under a godless 
order, is still worse than dying. Many are praying for 
the victory of the just cause, therefore, that God 
would put an end to the lordship of doers of violence. 
For such a prayer we have, indeed, many models in 
The Psalms, so that we may and should pray thus. 
But suppose that the cold war comes to an end. Is it 
that which we have prayed for? Is thereby the corrup- 
tion removed from which the cold war came? If for 
us Swiss so-called gc9d or normal times were to come 
again as we had it somewhat in the decades before 
the First World War is it that for which we can 
pray to God in seriousness? Precisely in those times 
when everyone could seek his own profit undisturbed 
did not the moral level in our nation sink to the low- 
est point and the flight from God become most wide- 

How Do We Receive the Holy Spirit? 113 

spread? Now again it appears that we always pray first 
and most passionately that we shall be spared and de- 
livered from suffering, while precisely the absence of 
such suffering makes us most godless, frivolous, luke- 
warm, and soft. We begin to despair of God as soon 
as things go wrong for us and others rather than 
when we and others become wrong. Again and again, 
ho\vever, God allows us not to get along well so that 
we learn to pay better attention to what really mat- 
ters. It does not matter whether we are happy, whether 
we are healthy, whether we have a secure life; rather, 
it depends upon whether we become men, or, what 
means the same thing, whether God is honored in us 
and among us. For in the image of God we are cre- 
ated and are therefore really men only so far as the 
image of God, the love and righteousness of God, re- 
flects from us. That is why we should pray to God 
that he may hammer us into shape if necessary 
through misfortune, suffering, illness, loss, pain that 
we become such as he planned us when he said, "Let 
us make man in our image." Let us not pray to God 
that he will spare us the difficult; rather, that he will 
bless to us the difficult, that he will make us right, 
every one of us, all Zurich and the Swiss nation, 
indeed the whole world. Yes, let us pray to him for 
blows when we have need of blows to become right. 
That is why the prayer with which we can never go 
wrong and which will always be the most important 
one for this life on earth is the prayer for his Holy 
Spirit. For when we are driven by the Spirit of God, 

ii4 / Believe in the Living God 

then we are God's sons, like him, well-pleasing to him; 
then and then alone are we genuine men. That is the 
mystery of us men, as the Bible opens it to us, that 
we are in need of God's Spirit, must be guided and 
ruled by God's Spirit, in order to become true men. 
Our own spirit is not given to us so that we may be 
our own lords through it; rather, it is given to us so 
that we may receive God's love, God's Holy Spirit, 
in it and allow ourselves to be guided by it. For this 
Holy Spirit of which the festival of Pentecost reminds 
us every year, most of all and most heartily we should 
pray because we have the explicit promise of fulfill- 
ment for this prayer alone. "If you then, who are evil, 
know how to give good gifts to your children, how 
much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy 
Spirit to those who ask him?" 

Prayer, however, is only a serious thing if we are 
ourselves also willing to do what we can do. That is 
why our text is so important, because it shows us that 
we not only can and may pray for the Holy Spirit but 
that there is also something for us to do. For many, 
prayer is simply an escape from doing something 
themselves. Such prayers have no promise. The 
prayers of which the Holy Scriptures speak is not the 
calm way for those who are too lazy, too frivolous, or 
too cowardly to do something themselves; it is not 
intended to be a mountain incline that brings one to 
the high goal without trouble while others fatigue 
themselves by climbing. Prayer has a promise only 
if it goes together with the will to do everything that 

How Do We Receive the Holy Spirit? 115 

lies in our power. To the question of the people from 
Jerusalem whose hearts the speech of Peter had 
touched the question as to what they should now 
do Peter does not answer: Pray for the Holy Spirit 
of course he had not forgotten the word of the 
Lord that commands precisely that. Rather, he points 
to a way that they should go, upon which the prayer 
for the Holy Spirit then becomes quite self-evident. 
"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the 
name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; 
and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." 

To receive the Holy Spirit and to become there- 
by a true man who would not like that? At this 
goal we would all like to arrive if it were to be reached 
by mountain incline. But now it tells here where in- 
formation is given to us how one may arrive at this 
goal we must do something to arrive at this goal. 
And, indeed, what we must do is something very pain- 
ful, repulsive, adverse, so that many turn away as soon 
as they hear it and say, "That is not for me." There 
is scarcely a word that is less pleasant to us than the 
word "repentance," "conversion." It is, however, this 
door to which we are stubbornly, clearly pointed in 
the Holy Scriptures when we ask about the way. It 
goes through that, and only through that; there is no 
other way to this goal, just as there is only this one 
way through the couloir to one particular mountain 
peak. If we are therefore serious enough about this to 
act so that we may receive the Holy Spirit and become 
sons of God, true men, then we must get in through 

ii6 / Believe in the Living God 

here, through this couloir, and through no other 

place. We must repent. 

That is why I should now like to stop preaching; 
I wish that God would now put such words into my 
mouth and so move your heart and mine that we 
could repent together. Yes, we should practice repent- 
ance with one another and help one another to re- 
pentance. For it is useless when one knows just exact- 
ly what repentance is, when one hears a sermon about 
it or reads a book about it and afterward knows more 
about it; rather, it all depends upon whether one re- 
pents. I wish, therefore, now only to remind us in a 
few words what kind of act that is, how one does it, so 
that we then also really do it, every one for himself. 
To repent is in the first place to talk with God I 
should say, aloud and on one's knees in a quiet room 
or outside in the forest where no one will surely hear 
it to talk with God just as a child talks with his 
father and tells him everything, what disobedient, un- 
faithful creatures we are. To repent is not to speak 
great words, but to lament to God from the heart our 
sorrow about ourselves, in which we tell him quite 
particular things that we have thought, said, and done, 
of which we certainly know that they are not right 
before him, and by which it becomes clear to us that 
we have a disobedient heart. Repentance is acknowl- 
edgment of sins, but such an acknowledgment that it 
grieves us heartily, not only that we have done that, 
but that we are such who could do that. To repent is 
to have a hearty remorse and to shame ourselves be- 

How Do We Receive the Holy Spiritf 117 

fore God before him who has done so many good 
things for us and whom we have rewarded with such 
unthankfulness. That is why repentance necessarily 
flows into the prayer for forgiveness of sins and for an 
obedient heart. Why, then, is this repentance so im- 
portant? Quite simply because only so can we en- 
counter God. As one can lay no gift in a clenched 
fist, so God cannot lay his love in an unrepentant 
heart. Repentance is the opening of the heart, that is, 
the whole person for God, the decramping of the heart 
that was previously cramped, in love with itself or 
gone mad about itself. To repent is really nothing 
else than to become honest before God and to see one- 
self as one is, in the mirror of God. Only when one 
becomes honest before God can one really receive 
God's word of grace. Only when one hates the dis- 
obedience in his disobedience can one be filled by 
the love of God. Thus we want to bow down, all the 
way down, with one another before God and tell him 
how it is with us so that he may help us to a new life. 
But that we can do only because we know Jesus 
Christ. The people from Jerusalem had to allow them- 
selves to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for 
the forgiveness of sins. We have already been baptized 
as children in this name, but this baptism is useless 
to us if it is not accepted in faith again and again. 
The baptism of children can have only this meaning: 
it is told to you from the beginning of your life 
that for you the way to God's forgiveness is opened 
through Jesus Christ. Baptism is like a key that some- 

u8 / Believe in the Living God 

one gave us in our earliest childhood to take with 
us so that we might learn to use it as soon as possible, 
the key, namely, that opens the door to God. This key 
however, is of some use only to those who find the 
right door; but only he who repents finds the door, 
for one can also turn this key in other doors. But it 
does not open the door of God unless one has really 
come before this door through repentance. The for- 
giveness of sins that is nothing else than free access 
to God- That we receive solely and alone in Jesus 
Christ, the one who was crucified and resurrected for 
us, and you receive him solely through the fact that 
you recognize through repentance that he has died 
for you, that your sins and mine made necessary this 
roundabout way between us and God, this horrible 
roundabout way which is called Golgotha. 

It should really not be necessary that we repent 
again and again. Rather, it should be the case that 
once we have repented we are united with Christ and 
remain so henceforth. And perhaps there are even 
such people who do live in a continuing, unbroken 
bond with Christ. The rest of us, however, have ex- 
perienced it to be the case, and experienced it again 
and again, that we free ourselves from God, go our 
own way, forget Christ our Lord, deny him. And then 
there is no other way back to him again than the one 
through that door to which baptism gives us the key, 
the way of repentance to the forgiveness of sins in 
Jesus Christ. If, however, it does not really grieve you 
that you are again disobedient, then the word "for- 

How Do We Receive the Holy Spirit? 119 

giveness" remains for you a mere word in your head 
that does not penetrate your heart and is only a con- 
cept that has no life in itself but on the contrary 
makes you frivolous. 

The real forgiveness of sins, however, that pene- 
trates the heart is nothing else at all than the new 
bond with God through Jesus Christ, free access to 
God, and joy in God. Have you joy in God? then 
you have forgiveness of sins. Do you not know what 
that is, joy in God? then you also do not know what 
forgiveness of sins is, then you have only the word- 
husk of it, the empty concept of the head, but not the 
reality. And that comes from the fact that you have 
not really repented. The way that the apostle Peter 
sketches is not any way for which we could substitute 
another one. There are not many ways leading to this 
goal but merely one, and he who will not go this way 
will never reach the goal. The way is: "Repent, and 
be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus 
Christ for the forgiveness of sins." 

But this way really leads to the goal of which we 
spoke at first and which all would like to reach, re- 
ceiving of the Holy Spirit. For see, when it comes 
about that we again have access to God and rejoice 
in God so that a joy goes through us when the nains 
of Jesus Christ and God is named see, then we have 
the Holy Spirit. As one notices that a current is in 
the wire when the light bulb becomes bright with the 
snapping on of the switch, so one notices that the 
Holy Spirit is there when a joy goes through one with 

120 / Believe in the Living God 

the naming of God's name. "Peace and joy in the 
Holy Spirit," says Paul. It does not always have to 
happen with the receiving of the Holy Spirit as strik- 
ingly as on the first Pentecost. There do not always 
have to be flames of fire and speaking in tongues. It 
can happen quite silently and unstrikingly; quite 
softly the door to God can open and when it opens 
his light flows in, without a sound and yet powerfully. 
Peace with God that is the first opening of the door; 
joy in God that means that it has opened wide so 
that, as the poet says, "your room becomes full of 
sun." And this opening of the door to God, that is 
indeed what alone matters in this life. Is the door to 
God open for you? Does his light in the peace and 
joy of the Holy Spirit really flow into your heart so 
you get along well even when all the world says you 
are getting along badly? 

Peace and joy in the Holy Spirit that is what we 
have need of today, what no world war can take away 
from us and no world peace can give us, and what is 
greater than all world events about which the large 
headlines of the newspapers report. Do not misunder- 
stand that! There is certainly nothing small about 
what was being fought out on the battlefields. It is 
nothing small for which our soldiers were standing 
watch on the border, for which so many sacrifices 
were made. There are many beautiful things in the 
world that are not peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 
from the gloriously blossoming apple trees and the 
juicy green meadows of the spring to the Swiss Con- 

How Do We Receive the Holy Spirit? 121 

federacy and all the costly acquired freedoms of our 
dear fatherland; from the joyful laughing of children 
to Beethoven's violin concerto and Goethe's Iphi- 
genie. The Holy Spirit does not want to take the 
place of all that and destroy it all. God's creation and 
the gifts of God the Creator should not be valued 
lowly and neglected. God does not want to separate 
us from all that through Jesus Christ, through repent- 
ance and faith and through the Holy Spirit. It is not 
true that the Christian may read nothing else besides 
the Bible and find nothing beautiful except the di- 
vine service. Faith and the Holy Spirit do not compete 
with the Creator and his gifts. Something quite dif- 
ferent is at stake. What is at stake is: that we, who 
again and again misuse God's creation and the gifts of 
creation and forget the Creator for the creature, make 
the creature himself into a god; that we, who corrupt 
our life and our neighbor's through this misuse of 
creation and service of idols, become inhuman and 
make life inhuman; that we are freed from this in- 
humanity through the Holy Spirit and restored to 
the humanity of God's true children in whom God's 
creation is honored again. The Holy Spirit does not 
prohibit us from laughing but teaches us to laugh 
rightly; he wants to cauterize away the unclean from 
our laughing, from our enjoyment of nature, from 
our joy in beauty, the inhuman from our social and 
political life; he wants above all to remove from life 
what is not genuine life, as the sun kills the bacilli so 
thkt the blood may become healthy. 

122 / Believe in the Living God 

Perhaps many of us have already experienced a 
little at least how quite differently one looks at the 
creation of God when the joy of God and the peace 
of God dwell in us through the Holy Spirit. But then, 
of course, still another thing comes to hand: the de- 
sire for a still quite different fulfillment of the Spirit 
and the strong wish that what is given to us might also 
possibly be given to many others. "For the promise 
is to you and to your children and to all that are far 
off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him." 
It is not the case with the gift of the Holy Spirit and 
the joy of God in one's heart, as it is for many with 
their beautiful little houses and little gardens: they 
shut themselves in and do not care any longer about 
what is outside. A Holy Spirit cannot be present in 
an egotistic encasement. A Holy Spirit is always a 
humane Spirit. He who has God in his heart is cogni- 
zant of the fact that he must always think of others. 
For he who loves God also loves God's creatures and 
children. Sin, evil, make one narrow-minded, igno- 
rant, commonplace, small; God, however, makes one 
broad. He who finds access to God through repent- 
ance is like one who comes through a dark, narrow 
tunnel to Jungfraujoch: suddenly he has an immense 
view. He receives an interest in others who were pre- 
viously of no concern to him, in his neighborhood, 
his city, his land, and other nations; he wishes that 
God's Spirit might find a path everywhere and make 
the life of man right. The Holy Spirit makes one not 
only bright but also broad. Still, it is not a general 

How Do We Receive the Holy Spirit? 123 

enthusiasm for humanity that brings forth great words 
but only seldom deeds; rather, it is that burning love 
which we see in our Lord Christ "he had compassion 
on the people" that does not rest until it can also 
do something for others. Friends, how easily all the 
difficult problems of present-day mankind would be 
solved if everywhere the Pentecost Spirit worked in 
the hearts of men! Why is that not the case? 

You know yourself what stands in the way of the 
Pentecost Spirit. One does not want to change; one 
wants to go his own way; one does not want to repent 
and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. It costs too 
much, it costs one's self. And when you yourself so 
lack the Holy Spirit, then you should not complain 
to God; you should not even say one must wait until 
God gives it. The apostle did not answer the people 
from Jerusalem, "Wait until it pleases God to give 
you the Holy Spirit." Rather, he said, "Repent and 
be baptized; then you will receive the gift of the 
Holy Spirit." Thus he also speaks to us. And when 
he says that, he says the other thing with it, what he 
received from his Lord: "Ask, and it shall be given to 
you; seek and you will find; knock, and it shall be 
opened." One cannot rightly repent without praying, 
and one cannot rightly pray without repenting. Both 
together is the only right preparation for Pentecost, 

X The Foundation 
and Continuance 
of the Church 

I believe in . . . the holy catholic church; 
the communion of saints. 

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he 
asked his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" 
And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, 
and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets/' He said to them, 
"'But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You 
are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered 
him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood 
has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my 
church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I 
will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever 
you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever 
you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matt. 16:13-19.) 


The Foundation and Continuance of the Church 125 

THE POWERS OF death shall not prevail against it! 
Is there really some such thing? Even still today? Dare 
one say of anything in this world: that it will not be 
killed, that it has eternal continuance today when 
everything that once seemed firm and without which 
we could not at all conceive the world is breaking to 
pieces, is being smashed and is disappearing? We are 
all shaken and shocked, aghast and agitated, in the 
innermost part of our being by the world struggle. 
In spite of the fact that it is something that men are 
doing and for which men will also have to be held 
responsible, it appears to us like a catastrophe of na- 
ture, a fateful, irresistible event by which all human 
planning and defense measures will be overwhelmed. 
Truly, the powers of death have overwhelmed many 
things. When will that come to an end? 

And now it says here: one thing will never be over- 
powered but will remain standing throughout all 
catastrophes, the church of Jesus Christ, not because 
it is something so perfect or .powerful but because it 
stands upon a foundation that does not waver. To 
speak of the church is to speak of its foundation, and 
to believe in its eternal continuance is to believe in 
him through whom and in whom it continues. About 
that we wish to reflect a little today, on the basis of 
the Scripture passage, which speaks about the first 
church in the New Testament and which also gives 
us a particularly deep insight into its nature. 

"You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my 
church." These words, as is well known, stand in capi- 

126 / Believe in the Living God 

tal letters, making a huge circle in the dome of St. 
Peter's Church in Rome. Through a tragic misunder- 
standing the Roman Catholic Church has related this 
word of the Lord to the papacy; upon this misunder- 
standing, the whole Roman Church is erected, a con- 
fusion of Caesar's Roman imperialism with the Chris- 
tian church. Surely nothing was farther from the Lord 
Jesus than such a proud organization of power that 
seeks spiritual ends by way of worldly diplomacy and 
politics and that seeks to achieve and even really 
achieves worldly ends by way of spiritual guidance of 
souls. It will always remain one of the greatest puzzles 
how it was possible to erect this strange and perhaps 
even most grandiose of all concentrations of power 
in history upon the gospel of the crucified Savior. 
The word of the Lord, which is our text, has in any 
case not even the slightest thing to do with that. It 
does not deal with the papacy and a papal church but 
with the fellowship of Jesus Christ, the communion 
of saints, which is based on the foundation of the 
apostles and prophets. What does our Confession of 
Faith mean when it says, "I believe ... in the holy 
catholic church; the communion of saints"? 

The word "church" is a very ambiguous, misunder- 
stood word. One can understand by it the church 
building, this beautiful, medieval Fraumunster 
church; or one can understand by it a special polity 
and organization, the nature of the churches of Can- 
ton Zurich, or even the sum total of all such organiza- 
tions of churches in the whole world. All that is not 

The Foundation and Continuance of the Church 127 

meant by the simple word "ecclesia" that our Lord 
uses here, and after him, the apostles. We would best 
translate it: "the fellowship of the Lord Jesus Christ," 
the men who with him form a living community as a 
body with its head, as a vine with its many different 
branches; the men who because they are united with 
him, their Heavenly Lord, also belong to one another 
and are dependent upon one another just as the mem- 
bers of a body and as the vital parts of a vine are. So 
the New Testament portrays the church to us. The 
church is not "something," neither a building nor a 
form of polity, neither an organization nor an insti- 
tution; the church is nothing but persons, namely, 
human persons who are joined together through the 
person of their Heavenly Lord. This fellowship of 
men can have buildings in which they hold worship 
services; they can have a particular type of organiza- 
tion that is suitable to their purposes; they can have 
officers and arrangements of all kinds but all that is 
not the church; rather, all that the church has. It, 
however, is, as the Confession of Faith says, a com- 
munion of saints; that means Vmen who have been 
seized by God and placed in his service." Our text 
speaks about the foundation of this church. It re- 
ports the hour of birth of the Christian church. Every 
Christian congregation, even the smallest and most 
formless, ought to regard this text as its title deed. 
In any case we will do so in so far as we are assembled 
here as the community of Jesus Christ, as the church. 
The story that is told to us here begins characteiis- 

128 / Believe in the Living God 

tically with a question: "Who do you say that I am?" 
That is the first time the Lord openly asks that ques- 
tion. Between his questions and Peter's answer there 
is a dreadful tension. What will they say? Have they 
noticed it? Never has he told them. They have to 
notice it for themselves; the confession, faith, has to 
be their own possession. And now Peter breaks the 
silence, as the one who temporarily speaks up for the 
disciples. "You are the Christ, the Son of the living 
God/ 1 The mystery is over; for the first time a man 
knows Jesus of Nazareth to be the Christ, the prom- 
ised Redeemer, the one who brings and perfects the 
Kingdom of God. How was that possible? Whence 
came to Peter this knowledge and certainty? It was 
to him even a miracle that he knew that; he himself 
did not completely understand how he came upon it. 
But Jesus himself explains the mystery. "Blessed 
are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not 
revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven." 
Yes, a miracle has come to pass, the greatest miracle 
that can ever happen upon earth. God himself has 
opened the eyes and heart of a man so he may see and 
know; this man Jesus of Nazareth is the Redeemer; 
in this man God himself encounters me. No human 
authority, no church, no holy doctrine, no holy book, 
no holy man can reveal it to him; God himself reveals 
it to him; God himself allows him to participate in 
his mystery. Had the Lord not said to them before, 
"No one knows the Son except the Father"? Now to 
this man, the fisherman Simon of Capernaum, God 

The Foundation and Continuance of the Church 129 

himself discloses the mystery of Jesus and makes him 
the first Christian believer and confessor. 

Up to that time men had heard about God the 
Creator and Lord of the world from the prophets. But 
God was still far away; one still could not see him in 
one's heart; he had given indications of the mystery 
of his love, forgiveness, reconciliation, and redemp- 
tion, but it had still not come to pass. And now he 
was there, acting and speaking in one man, he him- 
self present as the loving, saving, and forgiving God, 
the holy will, in Jesus the Christ. But he was there 
incognito, just as a king who disguises himself as a 
beggar and travels through his nation. Perhaps some 
have an idea that he is coming, perhaps one whispers 
to another, "Is that not the king?" until finally some 
one notices it and knows for sure and then speaks out: 
"You are the king!" So Peter noticed it because God 
opened his eyes and heart, and so he has expressed 
the awful: "You are the Messiah in whom the redeem- 
ing God is present." 

In this moment the foundation stone of the Chris- 
tian church is laid. For the "Christian church, or let 
us say more clearly, the community of Jesus Christ, 
is there and only there where men recognize Jesus 
the son of the carpenter from Nazareth as their Lord 
and Redeemer. Everyone who recognizes that belongs 
to the church of Jesus Christ, and no one who does 
not recognize and know that belongs to the church. 
He may like to go to Christian worship services, he 
may even have been baptized, instructed, and con- 

130 / Believe in the Living God 

firmed, he may even honor Jesus as a particularly 
holy man, as the most holy and best man that ever 
lived; but if he has not recognized that Jesus is the 
Redeemer, his Redeemer, then he does not yet belong 
to the community of Jesus Christ. He still stands in 
the entry and waits for the moment when his eyes 
also shall open and he can say: "Now I also know it: 
he is my Lord, before whom I unconditionally bow; 
he is my Savior, whom I unconditionally trust; he is 
the One in whom God sends his love and eternal life 
to me. In this moment he has become a member of 
the Christian community. 

So it was for the first one, Peter. And that is why 
the Lord says to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar- 
Jona!" and then continues to say, "You are Peter, and 
on this rock I will build my church." From that time 
on the fisherman Simon has the name Cephas, or 
Peter, which means "rock/' This title of honor he 
has held because he was the first confessor of Christ, 
the foundation stone of the church. 

Upon the confession of Jesus Christ the church is 
built, as the confession on its side rests upon the wit- 
ness of God's Spirit in the inner man- To everyone for 
whom God opens the heart for Jesus the Christ the 
duty is now given to speak out loudly what he has 
recognized in the inner man. There are many who 
think that one should lock the decisively religious in 
the inner man. There is something right in that, 
namely, a holy terror of making the Most Holy idle 
talk. Talk is so cheap, pious words come so easily; but 

The Foundation and Continuance of the Church 131 

to recognize Christ as one's Lord is surely the oppo- 
site of something that is cheap and easy. That is why 
one should not make it idle talk. But confession is 
something different from talk; confession is a public 
obligation. He who confesses Jesus Christ is now 
publicly obligated to take seriously the Lordship of 
Christ. Otherwise, he turns out to be simply a hypo- 

One should not really take so lightly the confession 
of Jesus Christ, as the church has unfortunately done 
so often and down to this day. One ought to know that 
it is a powerful thing when a man publicly confesses: 
I belong to this Christ, my Lord. Confession is a kind 
of oath to the flag; one pledges unconditional loyalty 
to the Lord. One is obligated to stand by him at any 
cost and to submit to him; one is obligated to give 
him unconditional, blind obedience and uncondition- 
al blind trust. Confession of faith is an unconditional 
declaration of loyalty, an oath of allegiance. Upon 
this confession the Christian community rests. After 
Peter came the other apostles; after the apostles, the 
three thousand on Whitsunday and then the expan- 
sion of the community throughout the whole world. 
All of them had to be ready at any time to be im- 
prisoned, tormented, and killed for the sake of their 
oath of loyalty, their confession of this Lord, and 
many of them have paid this price from the first days 
of the Christian community on. 

But Peter is not only the first confessor. As such he 
would not be the rock upon which Jesus wills to build 

132 / Believe in the Living God 

his community. Rather, Peter is the apostle, that is, 
the ambassador of God, whose witness to Jesus Christ 
awakens faith in other men. Not Peter as a person 
but his function as an apostle is the foundation of the 
church. We can see that all apostles stand together in 
the early church; Peter, of course, is the leading figure 
among them, the speaker and organizer in their midst. 
Never is it his person, however, upon which the au- 
thority rests but upon the apostolic office that was 
conferred upon him and the other ten. Upon this 
apostolic office the whole church rests because we 
would have no proclamation of Jesus Christ without 
the apostles. To them the mystery was first entrusted; 
only they as the first ones could, and had to, pass it on. 
Just because they as the first have this distinction, 
there is no continuation of the apostolic office. It was 
something once for all just as the revelation of God 
in Jesus Christ himself, just as the cross and the res- 
urrection, were something once for all. This founda- 
tion was laid once for all; it never has to be laid again. 
Jesus Christ, as he is proclaimed and handed down to 
us through the words of the apostles, is the founda- 
tion of the church. 

So also the words about the keys to the Kingdom of 
God are to be understood. The community of Jesus 
Christ is a holy temple. No one can enter this temple 
by himself. Only he who has been invited can enter. 
He is invited, however, by the forgiving love of God 
in Jesus Christ. This word of reconciliation is en- 
trusted to the apostles and to Peter as the first. He for 

The Foundation and Continuance of the Church 133 

whom he opens the temple with these keys, that is, he 
who believes in Jesus Christ as Savior through the 
word of reconciliation, enters the temple and be- 
comes a member of the community of Christ; but 
everyone who takes offense at this word of reconcilia- 
tion remains outside. To him who says yes to Jesus 
Christ on earth we know now what this "yes" means; 
it is the "yes" of trust and obedience yes is said in 
heaven, in eternity. And to him who says no to Jesus 
Christ on earth no is said in heaven, in eternity. That 
is the decision before which every man is placed. 

That is the decision before which also every one of 
us is placed. Do you say yes to the God who comes to 
you in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Or are 
you and do you want to continue to be your own lord 
and savior? Do you see that with all the power and 
cleverness which you have you cannot save yourself 
from corruption or do you still believe that every 
one is the maker of his own fortune? Dear friends, hu- 
man self-confidence has been given a hard jolt in our 
times. Many have for the first time noticed what 
empty phrases these words are: self-confidence, self- 
reliance, the power of the nation, our dignity. The 
man who puts his trust in himself is fantastic. He 
may be an able man. at his post, but one day there 
comes a time when he has reached the end and when 
he must see that he has played the wrong cards. 
Granted, it is not easy for a powerful, brave, and 
clever man to understand how this could ever possibly 
happen to him. But if he is really honest with him- 

134 I Believe in the Living God 

self, he must see it and will see it. If he takes God's 
commandments seriously, he must see that he does not 
obey them and therefore needs forgiveness and re- 
demption. If he does not evade the meaninglessness of 
death, he must see how futile this life is if there is not 
an eternal completion, and that he cannot make this 
but can only receive it. It is important to see that what 
the New Testament calls love is the real meaning of 
life, and that we ourselves do not have precisely this 
love and cannot give it to ourselves but can only re- 
ceive it. He who sees that is ripe to recognize Jesus 
Christ as his Lord and Redeemer. In this moment, 
when this recognition breaks through into him, he be- 
longs to the community of Jesus Christ. 

And now let us return to the beginning. Of this 
church the Lord says: because it is built upon this 
rock, the powers of death cannot prevail against it. He 
who through Jesus Christ has found and won fellow- 
ship with the living God does not perish in death. To 
take part in Christ means to take part in eternal life, 
in the resurrection and in the perfection of all things, 
in the Kingdom of God. He who belongs to Christ 
belongs to him in eternity. When God binds himself 
to someone, he does not bind himself just for a time 
but forever. It is good that these evil and dangerous 
times have again brought us closer to the vision of 
eternity. We had miserably fallen in love with the 
temporal, with this world. He who is entangled in the 
temporal can, however, not give his best here, for be- 
hind everything lurks that fear that he will lose the 

The Foundation and Continuance of the Church 135 

temporal. Only he who is certain of eternal life is free 
of the fear of death. And only he who is free from the 
fear of death is truly strong and free. That is the first 
thing: eternal life is promised to him who believes in 
Jesus Christ. 

The second thing, however, is this, that also the 
church as a whole has a part in the promise of eternal 
life. Not only every individual Christian but also the 
community of Christ is destined for eternity. "The in- 
dividual Christian" is really a misunderstanding; 
there is no such thing. Just as there cannot be an in- 
dividual hand or an individual arm it is then cut off 
and dead so there cannot be an individual Chris- 
tian. A Christian is always a member of the com- 
munity or he is no Christian. This community of 
Christ, however, is the only one upon earth to which 
is promised imperishableness. All others will sooner 
or later pass away; every state, every race, every cul- 
ture, every work of art has its time perhaps long, 
perhaps short but someday it will no longer exist 
just as someday we will no longer exist. But one 
thing will never cease to be, the community of Jesus 
Christ, the church that is built upon Peter's rock. I 
do not mean the so-called Catholic Church, not even 
the Reformed Church, but the community of those 
who belong to Jesus Christ through trust, obedience, 
and loyalty. To them a beginning of eternal life is al- 
ready given here; and this eternal life cannot die, 
rather, it has the promise of eternal life. That is the 
powerful confidence which the church has. It may be 

136 / Believe in the Living God 

attacked, hated, mocked, oppressed; its organization 
may be destroyed, its activities may be extremely con- 
gned yet it remains and will outlive everything else 
that is great and lasting. 

For the church is the true community, the com- 
munity founded upon God's love. It is the only com- 
munity that is not built upon an egotistic motive. AH 
other communities, from the most intimate friend- 
ship to the most inclusive national community, con- 
tain an egotistic element; one wants to have some- 
thing from it for himself. The Christian community 
alone is, if it is what it ought to be, free from that. It 
is unconditional love for the other, that love which 
God alone can give and which he gives us through 
Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit. 

That is why this fellowship is also the salt of every 
national community. There is just so much true and 
lasting community in our nation as there is Christian 
fellowship, the church of Jesus Christ, in it. The ruin 
of the church is the ruin of the nation; the decline 
of the churches is also the decline of real national 
unity. It is not civilization and culture, nor blood and 
soil, that can really unite us but only love, disinter- 
ested, sacrificing, selfless love that love which Jesus 
Christ alone gives us. That is what will teach and 
show us God in these stormy times. He shakes every- 
thing so we will see what will really stand forever. He 
takes many things away from us so we will at last grasp 
what has eternal worth. He shakes even our nation 
so it will find its way back to the community that will 

The Foundation and Continuance of the Church 137 

never cease to be because it rests upon rocky ground, 
because it is descended from the Spirit of God him- 
self. I believe in the holy catholic church, the com- 
munion of saints, because it is nothing else but the 
community of God's love founded on Jesus Christ 
himself. We belong to this communion of saints if 
we allow ourselves to be seized by this love of God, 
and we are part of the indestructible church if we re- 
main in it in faith's trust and obedience. Amen. 

XI Judgment 

and Forgiveness 

I believe in ... the forgiveness of sins. 

// thou, O Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, 

Lord, who could stand? 
But there is forgiveness with thee f 

that thou mayest be feared. (Ps. 130:3-4.) 

WHO WILL STAND? Who has stood? A storm has 
gone over the world and is going still farther over us 
all. What will it leave standing? We cannot see any- 
thing other than a judgment of God in this storm, a 
judgment upon our whole godless and therefore root- 
less modem culture and civilization. God often uses 
for his judgments very strange instruments. The god- 
less Assyrians and Babylonians he used in order to 
execute upon his people judgment which the prophets 


Judgment and Forgiveness 1 39 

had long before foretold. Even to these nations a turn 
would eventually come; but at first they were in all 
their insolence and God-despising nature his execu- 
tioners of judgment. So he used one hundred and 
fifty years ago a Napoleon to pulverize a decayed and 
rotten political system in Europe until then the day 
came when God's scourges were themselves crushed. 
So God is also working today "in the wild storm" and 
letting it become obvious how hollow was much of 
what seemed great and strong. Even we shall not be 
spared this test-judgment. What will stand? So much 
is certain: either our nation will stand, we will let 
ourselves be called to consciousness and repentance, 
to turning away from a materialistic and egotistic 
understanding of life toward God and his righteous- 
ness; or we will go under and deserve to go under. No 
nation can in the long run live off the sacrifices that 
earlier generations have made. If the sense of sacri- 
fice dies, if awe in the face of God's commandments 
dies, then things are ripe for going under. This ques- 
tion is now placed before us: Will you Swiss people 
be able to take upon yourselves the heaviest sacrifice 
for your independence, or will you sell your freedom 
for economic profit and material prosperity? What 
will be more valuable to you, to have it good for a 
while as before, at the price of independence, or to 
draw the belt tighter, to renounce, to get through 
narrowly, to do without, in order to save independ- 
ence and honor? How shall we stand this test? And 
who will stand it? 

140 / Believe in the Living God 

Our text speaks, however, not of this test and of 
this standing. The word of Schiller that world his- 
tory is world judgment is only a half-truth. There are 
judgments of God in world history, that is true; and 
that we are experiencing today. But all these judg- 
ments which we experience here upon earth are only 
preludes to the Great Judgment that will come at the 
end of the times for us all, for every one of us when 
he steps off this world stage and is called over the 
threshold to eternity. Then every one of us must come 
before God's face; then the Holy God stands as judge 
before him. Then you yourself must answer for every- 
thing you have done and unfortunately not done, said 
and unfortunately not said, thought and unfortunate- 
ly not thought. Then you will be weighed on God's 
scales. That is the most serious thought we can think. 

Let me say something about seriousness. Often old 
people say to young people: "Boy, girl, you do not yet 
know how serious life is." Perhaps they themselves 
do not know what is serious. They think the serious- 
ness of life is that all kinds of difficulties befall one, 
that there are many disappointments and many hard- 
ships about which youth have no idea. But that is not 
serious; that is perhaps sad or dangerous or miserable. 
But the fact alone that we are held responsible is se- 
rious. We have read these days in the newspapers 
from a neighboring country: The guilty will be held 
inexorably responsible. That is serious. Seriousness 
is there where we have responsibility, where we are 
held responsible in the final all-inclusive sense. 

Judgment and Forgiveness 141 

The most serious question, the only uncondition- 
ally serious question is therefore this: How shall we 
stand that test? Dear friends, every one of us is com- 
pletely different from the other, and the life of every 
one is different from every other one. For no one up 
to now has it gone, or will it ever go, just the same 
as for the other. As the faces of all are different all 
the millions of faces of human beings so also the 
courses of life are different. But one thing is the same 
among us all, quite exactly the same: we shall all 
eventually die, and we shall all be placed before the 
judgment seat of God in the Last Judgment, in the 
Final Judgment, the unbelievers and the believers, 
those who scoffed at the idea of a judgment and those 
who already knew that what the Scriptures say is true. 
How will we then stand when we shall stand before 
God's face? 

And now the pious poet of Ps. 130 tells us: in this 
judgment no one could stand if God wished to charge 
sins to his account. Therefore, a third thing that is 
the same for us all: not only must we all die, we must 
all appear before God's judgment seat; but also, we 
cannot stand in this judgment if sins are charged to 
us. Why not? Because we are all sinners. That you 
know; first of all, one's conscience tells one that, and 
secondly, one has by this time often heard it in ser- 
mons or read it in the Bible. And that is why it no 
longer makes a strong impression. Yes, we are all 
"chief sinners." We do not stand in the judgment if 
God marks our iniquities, even that we have known 

142 / Believe in the Living God 

for a long time. But now the dreadful happens: we 
skip joyfully over this most serious of all thoughts 
with comfort God does not mark our iniquities; he 
forgives us our sins. That, too, one has often heard 
from his youth. The word "forgiveness" is like a light- 
ning rod that allows us to remain calm even during 
the greatest thunderstorm. Nothing matters, the light- 
ning will not strike us, for indeed we have a lightning 
rod! The judgment of God will do nothing to us: we 
are Christians; we believe indeed in the forgiveness 
of sins. We joke somewhat about those who go to con- 
fession to receive absolution there that means pre- 
cisely forgiveness of sins and then, since the bur- 
den is taken away from them, joyfully free from it sin 
again, knowing that they can go there again one day 
and unload. We are right when we rebel against that; 
but ^ T e do not often notice that we who know the word 
"forgiveness of sins as well as those often do quite 
the same thing at bottom as they, only that a priest 
does not bestow absolution upon us, but we our- 
selves. "I know I have sinned but God forgives. I 
know that I cannot stand before God's judgment if he 
should mark iniquities. But he is indeed merciful and 
does not mark iniquities but forgives us our sins out 
of his wonderful goodness. Summa summarum: it is 
not bad; the matter is not so serious as it seemed at 
first. In the first part of the sermon the preacher speaks 
of sins and powerfully arouses one, and in the second 
part of the sermon he speaks of the forgiveness of sins 
and then cheers one up again. We know that by this 

Judgment and Forgiveness 143 

time and that is why we no longer take even the first 
part of the sermon as dreadfully serious; we know just 
how it finally comes out." One is like a curious reader 
who first reads the ending of the story and knows 
that the hero is still alive at the end, and then one 
needs no longer be afraid for him, even when one 
reads about the worst dangers into which he comes. 
We know, indeed, the happy ending. So our Chris- 
tianity is for many and probably for every one of us 
at times just such a happy-ending story in which we 
know that it will not come out so badly because God 
ultimately forgives sins. 

See, there we are running across one of the rotten- 
est points in our whole Christianity, and this rotten- 
ness in Christianity is perhaps one of the main causes 
of what one could call the European rottenness. If the 
Christian community, which should still be the salt 
of the earth, has already begun to rot to such an ex- 
tent because of this unseriousness, then how will the 
more or less unbelieving, heathen world learn some- 
thing of true seriousness from us? We have made 
something out of one of the greatest, holiest words of 
the Bible, out of the word "forgiveness/' that is not 
at all in its meaning but runs exactly counter to it. 

For that, however, the Bible is not really respon- 
sible. For it tells us clearly enough that one dare not 
go such a circuitous way with forgiveness. Thus the 
psalmist tells us: "But there is forgiveness with thee, 
that thou mayest be feared." Where fear of God is 
gone, there faith is that salt-become-tasteless which is 

144 ^ Believe in the Living God 

good for nothing, so that one may throw it away and 
let it be trampled down by people. Dear friends, what 
terrible kinds of mountains of salt-become- tasteless 
Christianity has heaped up! How much of this un- 
serious Christianity is in your life and mine! What a 
misuse of the word "forgiveness" we have encouraged, 
namely, that it does not lead us to the fear of God but 
has made us heedless and filled us with that false light- 
ning-rod optimism. How -many have we preachers al- 
ready involved in guilt with us through a false sermon 
about forgiveness! I do not like to think of the mo- 
ment when God will present me with the bill for all 
the wrong things that may have gone forth from my 
way of preaching the forgiveness of sins. Every ser- 
mon is false, indeed godless, that does not lead those 
who hear it to repentance, does not fill them with a 
true, holy awe before God. Every so-called evangeli- 
cal comfort, every comfort from the cross of Jesus 
Christ, is a false, indeed a cursed, comfort that is mere- 
ly pleasant without at the same time being dead seri- 
ous. I have often asked myself precisely in these weeks 
whether it would not perhaps be good if just once for 
a time nothing more would be said about the forgive- 
ness of sins but instead of that we would speak quite 
simply about the judgment of God, about the fact 
that we are all called to an accounting by God and 
must answer ourselves for everything before him. Not 
because the sermon about forgiveness would not be 
true; it is and remains the dearest page of the Bible, 
and the word "forgiveness" of sins is and remains the 

Judgment and Forgiveness 145 

greatest, holiest, and costliest word that we know; but 
because nothing is so bad as the frivolous use of this 
holiest and costliest word and its dulling effect upon 
the conscience if it is not closely protected from mis- 

What does the psalmist mean when he says, "There 
is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared'? 
He wants to tell us in the first place: forgiveness is 
something that one cannot have unless one receives it 
with God himself doing it. Forgiveness is no article 
of merchandise that one can obtain from God just as 
one could in earlier times obtain an indulgence paper 
from a priest with money. Forgiveness is only for those 
to have who subject themselves humbly before God. 
For forgiveness is the sovereign act of grace of the di- 
vine King. Just as one who is sentenced by the court 
has only one way out to appeal to the grace of the 
supreme government of the country that it may grant 
him grace rather than law so forgiveness is the last 
possibility that the Holy God alone has to absolve us 
from his judgment. Only he who acknowledges this 
regal majesty of God, only he who subjects himself 
awfully before the sentence of His judgment, has any 
prospect that God may make use of his law of grace 
toward him. 

See, that is why Jesus our Savior, the Son of God, 
has been slain for us on the cross, that we do not 
come to a cheap forgiveness. Between us and for- 
giveness now stands the cross on Golgotha. There the 
word of the psalmist is fulfilled: "There is forgive- 

146 / Believe in the Living God 

ness with thee, that them mayest be feared." For there 
God our Holy Lord tells us that he cannot and will 
not simply shove aside our sin and our sins as if they 
were nothing, but that it cost him infinitely much, 
that it has cost him the life of his Son. The severe 
judgment of God is not simply put away, laid away, 
but it is carried out and worked out on him, the un- 
guilty One, so that we can be saved. Yes, it is true, 
"God does not will the death of the sinner but that 
he returns to him." It is true: that God loves us his 
creatures, infinitely and incomprehensibly, in spite 
of all our disloyalty, our frivolity, and our defiance; 
that we may and should believe when we are in de- 
spair over ourselves and" think there is no longer any 
salvation, that we are lost since we cannot, indeed, 
stand in the court of God. But that is something other 
than cheap forgiveness. God does not pass over our 
sins; he goes through them when he forgives us in 
Jesus Christ and calls us his dear children. 

That is also why we should not simply pass over our 
sin to forgiveness, but should go through the cross of 
Jesus Christ, We should know how much it has cost 
him so that he can nevertheless accept us and call us 
to himself. Yes, even more: we must take upon our- 
selves the judgment that there the Son of God suffers, 
and say: "I am really the one judged; the punishing 
hand of God was meant for me as it struck him, the 
righteous One, on the cross. 7 deserve the wrath that 
he has taken. I, the sinner, was judged and slain there 
so that I can live as God's child." Only through this 

Judgment and Forgiveness 147 

judgment of God, through this fire, in which all my 
sinful desires, my self-will, my frivolity, my feelings of 
hate, my self-seeking are destroyed, can I obtain the 
forgiveness of God. I must fear God the Judge if I 
would rightly love God the merciful Father. I must, 
therefore, renounce all that is contrary to God in my 
life if I would enjoy his love. 

Let us say it quite simply: there is no forgiveness 
of sins without a truly repentant heart to which sin 
is sincerely painful and which renounces it with all 
its power and in all honesty. To wish to have God's 
forgiveness without this renunciation of things con- 
trary to God, that is crazy frivolity; that is to carry 
on a mischievous game with the grace of God. Cer- 
tainly, God anticipates us. He has not waited until it 
is painful for us; he does not say, "First I want to see 
your repentance, then I will show you my forgive- 
ness/' He is not like a cautious tradesman who first 
wants to see your purchasing money before he gives 
up his costly goods. God goes beforehand in incom- 
prehensible love and mercy: he does everything first; 
he shows us his grace first; he himself, he quite alone, 
pays our whole bill of debts. But he has done all that 
in such a way that we shall lay hold of his mercy and 
can experience it in no other way than through peni- 
tence and repentance. To him only He gives his for- 
giveness who says to Jesus Christ: "O Lord, what you 
suffered is all my burden; I, I, am guilty of what you 
have borne." He who says that honestly repents; for 
him, it is grievous; he returns, he renounces what is 

/ Believe in the Living God 

not right, he shames himself for what he has done 
wrong and hates in himself the things that contravene 
God. He says to God: "I dare and will no longer be 
the one who I was, for you, Lord, have made me new 
in Christ/' Another one, however, who wishes to have 
it cheaper, will not fall to his share. He can, indeed, 
catch a momentary semblance of comfort so that it 
again becomes for him a little lighter. In reality he 
has not received forgiveness; rather, he has only for- 
given himself. And that is why this comfort of for- 
giveness does not really make one joyful, does not 
give peace to one's heart, does not create fellowship 
with God, and therefore also has no fruit of love 
along with it. 

That is why it is that forgiveness is no article of 
merchandise that we can obtain from God but fel- 
lowship with God a re-presented, restored relation- 
ship between us the creatures and him the Creator. 
"There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be 
feared" that we now understand. For if one is really 
united with God, then one also has fear of God, awe 
before the Holy God, a holy respect for his orders and 
commandments. When a child is related to his mother 
in a genuine, affectionate love, then it does not say: 
"I may do that. Mother has forbidden it but she is a 
dear mother she will let me get away with it." A 
child who thinks so does not really love his mother; 
and a mother who would behave so with her child 
would not be a true mother but a sentimental per- 
son who does not deserve to have a child. A genuine 

Judgment and Forgiveness 149 

relationship between a mother and a child is such 
that the child receives through it a fear of doing any- 
thing that the mother does not like. 

So much more is a genuine relationship with the 
God who is not only merciful but also holy, not only 
gracious but also just, always a willingness to obey 
him and a fear of doing anything that is not right be- 
fore him. Where this fear and this willingness is not 
there, the relationship is also not there; then, how- 
ever, forgiveness of sins is also not there. For forgive- 
ness of sins is, indeed, not alone and not, above all, 
the setting aside of guilt but the new relationship with 
God, the joyful relationship of God's children, the 
certainty that nothing can separate me from the love 
of God. The obedience and willingness to do good 
that comes from such a relationship is a much stronger 
safeguard against evil than the fear of punishment. 
For stronger than fear is love; love of God, however, 
includes in it the fear of God, awe before the Al- 
mighty Creator and the Holy Lord. 

It is the mystery of the divine wisdom and love to 
reveal itself to us in the cross of Jesus Christ and to 
give us his forgiving mercy in such a way that it can 
only be received by a willingly obedient heart. Of 
course one can also misunderstand the cross of Christ, 
so that it becomes a cover of sins instead of a power 
against sin. But let us have no illusions about that: 
one cannot receive forgiveness thus but merely a de- 
ceiving semblance of it. One can have indulgence 
cheaply and continue to sin freely, but not forgive- 

150 / Believe in the Living God 

ness. Genuine, true forgiveness is the most effective 
means against sin, against all evil. For all evil comes 
from awelessness and lovelessness. Forgiveness, how- 
ever, is the receiving of the holy love of God. He who 
does not wish to love God, and therefore to obey him, 
again falls immediately away from forgiveness. 

That does not mean that one may become a sin- 
less saint through forgiveness and whoever is not one 
therefore has no part in forgiveness. Then we would 
all be lost; then we would fall into sin again and 
again. But he who really lives in the real forgiveness 
of God through Jesus Christ, in him is a power against 
sin that does not allow him to sin freely but gives him 
power against it and, when he has fallen again, im- 
mediately reminds and reprimands him and disgusts 
him with sin. For even we, we who are certain of the 
forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ, will indeed appear 
before the judgment seat of Christ and have to give 
an accounting about everything. There it will then 
appear whether we have really stood in the forgive- 
ness or merely played with forgiveness and deceived 
ourselves and others. This seriousness remains with 
us; but if we are really united with God through 
Christ, it is no seriousness that frightens us or lets us 
despair but a seriousness that warns us to remain in 
it and not wantonly to risk the gift. So the fear of God 
must remain the root of our faith and the joyful, 
childlike love of God, its crown. Amen. 


the Resurrection 

I believe in ... the resurrection of the 
body; and the life everlasting. 

/ am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, 
though he die, yet shall he live. (John 11:25.) 

WE HAVE THOUGHT recently more about dying 
and about death than ever before. Many of us at the 
beginning of the last war looked upon our lives as fin- 
ished, and since then take every day we still live as a 
special gift of God. But another question is 
whether we were really prepared for death. In those 
days of panic even Christians lost their heads because 
they had a terrible anxiety about death. Anxiety about 
death is for us men the natural thing, but not for us 
Christians. For a Christian is, indeed, one who be- 


152 / Believe in the Living God 

lieves what the Lord says to us in our text today: "I 
am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in 
me, though he die, yet shall he live." In this anxiety 
it appears that we have not yet or not yet rightly 
learned to set our sight on eternal life as the goal 
that we are going to meet with longing and-hope. 

Let us speak frankly with one another about this. 
^Ve present-day Christians allowed ourselves to 

is., isls^^ 

Of course we havenoF jmnratheradical emancipa- 
tion from faith in the other world; most Christians be- 
lieve somehow that there is a life after death, that the 
soul is immortal, that with death everything is not 
over, or what are similar figures of speech. But we 
have still allowed ourselves to be influenced by the 
modern contempt for otherworldly LfitfflfitiflJMJS and, 
above all, with the others have 

interest on the things of this-world to such a degree 
thaFTW*tBe*^iOTv'orldly things only a little interest 
remains. We have made a kind of compromise with 
the modern woghiMi^ and despisers of 
the other worloDy thmon^S^ome such way: This 
visible, earthly world is still God's creation: one 
should not condemn it as a valley of tears; it is really 
the miracle work of God. And this earthly life is the 
life that God gives us, which it is our task to develop. 
Here is our place of work, the vineyard in which the 
Lord calls and places us. Here family and native land, 
vocation and human duty, demand our whole atten- 
tion. Here are the neighbors whom we ought to love; 

I Am the Resurrection 153 

whether we have been true to the realization of the 
talents entrusted to us will be decided when once we 
are called to give an accounting. Therefore we must, 
so long as this life still lasts, give our whole attention 
to it and can confidently allow what awaits us on the 
other side of death's line to come upon us when it 
comes. Is it not true that we have taken just about 
such a position to this question? 

But now we see in the New Testament a complete- 
ly different attitude. The Christian community is di- 
rectly fulfilled by this one thing: by the coming eter- 
nal world, by the hope and certainty of the resurrec- 
tion. As a prize-runner races toward his goal, so the 
Christian^ community race& Jt^ward this cormng eter- 
nal world which has perpetrated it, heart and deter- 
mined its outlook. The whole message of the New 
Testament is concerned with the future of the Lord 
Jesus and with the coming of his Kingdom. Of course 
it does not think of a world somewhere above or be- 
neath this earth but of a breaking of an eternal world 
into this world. It does not pray: "Make me pious so 
that I may enter heaven/* But it does pray: "Thy 
kingdom come." But the Kingdom for whose coming 
it prays is the Kingdom of the resurrection and of 
eternal life, the life that knows no more of death, 
suffering, perishableness, and contradictions, life in 
the perfection of God and his love. This hope for an 
eternal life is for the first Christians not something 
about which they like to think when they are old, not 
& comforting prize for those who no longer have any- 

154 ^ Believe in the Living God 

thing for which to hope in this real, earthly life. On 
the contrary the expectation of this eternal life is 
everything to them. Who is Jesus for them? He is the 
Messiah, which means the one who brings the sov- 
ereignty of God and the resurrection. What are they 
primarily thinking of when they thank God for the 
coming of Christ? They are thanking him primarily 
because he has given them in Jesus Christ certainty 
of eternal life and access to it. The expectation of the 
resurrection, of the return of Jesus, of judgment and 
perfection, is not a part, nor the last and most unim- 
portant part, of their Christian faith; rather, it is the 
quintessence; it is the sap and kernel of their Chris- 
tian faith. One can say plainly: A Christian is a man 
who through Jesus Christ hopes for eternal life. 

How monstrously sharp and clear is the contrast 
with what we have just now observed to be the atti- 
tude and outlook of the average Christian today! We 
can see in this contrast what kind of mixture of mod- 
ern this-worldliness and Christian hope is our ordi- 
nary Christianity. 

But now the unveilings that God has allowed to 
happen in this modern world come to us to help bring 
us through once again to the Biblical, Christian hope. 
A glance at the events in our time can make it clear to 
us whither the this-worldly orientation of life leads. 
One says: Here on earth vtz are to love men as our 
neighbors, , jujtjn^soine otheTwoSdTQuite^ 
ilone are they whom we ought to help and to whom 
tve ought to do good. Thereupon the Bible does not 

I Am the Resurrection 155 

leave any doubt. But how does one come to love this 
neighbor? Here is the great fallacy of modern men. 
^ Igssonethinksabout^^ 


the opjDOsite, and tj^^exg^e^ 
firms it. It is even understandable when one meditates 
upon it more deeply. T^he j^menhav ajiogg be- 
yond JLhij^ 

with pleasures and good& r -the mm^- g^ed^ 

get possession of, th^jnorejn^ 
they become. 

C^^ciF'other thing. Let us ask: When have mar- 
riage and the family been held more sacred, then 
among the first Christians as the New Testament 
shows us or in the modern world that is completely 
this-worldly? Once again contrary to our first im- 
pression we must say: then when men hoped and 
waited for eternity, marriage and the family received 
the stamp of holiness. The sense of the holy, awe, dis- 
appears to the extent that the hope for eternal life 
fades. The man who has nothing to fear and hope for 
on the other side of death loses that sense of what is 
holy and unholy, respect for God's unimpeachable 

One more example. Who serves his country most 
faithfully and most disinterestedly, he for whom this 
earthly life is the principle thing or he who as the 
apostle Paul says of himself and the other Christians: 
"Our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we 

156 / Believe in the Living God 

await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ'? Again the 
answer is completely contrary to what seems obvious: 

will serve most f aithf ully and most 

home ^^^Klsfello^^Me The more certain of 
eternal life and the more desirous of the Kingdom of 
God a man is, the more distance he puts between 
Ihimself and what otherwise imprisons men, the more 
free he is for service. 

But we do not need this proof from experience if 
we would bow obediently before the divine word. Our 
Lord Christ speaks: "I am the resurrection and the 
life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall 
he live." Thus he says: You have no idea who I am 
and what I mean for you, have done and will do for 
you, if you do not look beyond this life to eternity. 
He is no human peacemaker, no political messiah or 
savior. Earthly messiahs we have enough of today and 
can see just what they can do. We already have an 
idea what the end of all this will be an end with 
terror. Jesus, however, says to us: If you want to un- 
derstand me, you must go beyond the temporal to the 
eternal, for I am he who brings the Kingdom of God 
to you, that through me you may win entrance into 
eternal life. He who will not do that should keep his 
hands off me and my gospel. To men who are satis- 
fied with the world and j&e^hingLoJJ^ 
have nothing notfeing atalL to > say c^f thjs;that 
theTinusTgo ..... fcTSTeJ? ..... own ...... rum. ...... 

noticed that tiys eaKEIylile in it 

I Am the Resurrection 157 

but can receive itsi^^ to 

tfieriO^ you this goal; yes, even more: 

I am this goal. I am the resurrection and the life. 

Is it not true that that is difficult to understand? 
How can Christ be my goal? How can he himself be 
the resurrection, my resurrection and the resurrection 
of all believers? And yet it is so because Jesus Christ 
is not onlj^a man but because he is the one in whom 
God calls us to himsJ^Te^^ and o- 

ferjas^h^^*JTl^" f H^li^^ 

am the resurrection and the life," he alone can say 
who may say: "I and the father are one." But we must 
venture to say it even more boldly when we really 
want to understand what Christ means here: You 
man, whoever you are, man or woman, high or low, 
you have from God one meaning and one goal of 
your life. You shall not remain what you are, but 
you will become what Christ Js.Forheis the fulfiller 

JSJj^Jfc^^ ^ ou shall not onlyl 

become as he is, but you shall take part in him, in his 
own divine-human nature. To live in him in eternity 
that is the true eternal life, that is the fulfillment of 
human destiny, the destiny of all men, at least of all 
those who reach their destiny. From eternity we are 
destined through Jesus Christ to receive in the Son of 
God divine, eternal life and in this to find our fulfill- 
ment, our true human nature. He, Christ, is sent to us 
by God to awaken us to eternal life from the nothing- 
ness of death into which all of us have sunk. 

How, dear friends, can we know that that is true? 

158 / Believe in the Living God 

What can we say against those who tell us that no one 
knows what will be on the other side, not even you? 
You should say to him: You are right, I know as little 
as you. But God knows and God has revealed it to 
me in Jesus Christ his Son. To believe in him and 
that I do as a Christian means, therefore, to be cer- 
tain of this, his promise. One cannot believe in Jesus 

^ For "I am 

the resunrejia& and- d^e JJI&ZJbie says. And now he 
continues: "He who believes in me, though he die, 
yet shall he live." Certainty of our eternal life is for 
us by all means based upon faith in Jesus Christ. 
There may still be other reasons why we may believe 
in a beyond, in a continuation of life after death or 
perhaps in the immortality of the soul. But all these 
are weak and uncertain, even illusory. Many will 
answer: Even the ground Jesus Christ upon which 
you stand is weak and illusory. One will say that so 
long as he does not know what this faith is and how 
it arises. Qne^cannot siinply one beauuf 
to believe in himTahd tEe^^tffis faith be assured of 
eternal lit e. ^pigl^^ thing, 

Because the Bible tells us that faJtkj^Lgg^tly thing, 
a c^stlyj]*^ What does 

it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? It is simple to say: 
I believe that he is the Son of God, as it is written in 
the Bible, and I believe that he is the Redeemer, as it 
is written in the Bible and as the church teaches us. 
But all that is not the kind of faith of which the Bible 

I Am the Resurrection 159 

itself speaks. To believe in him means much more 
there: through him to repent, to be brought to a com- 
plete conversion; and through him, through com- 
plete trust in him and complete obedience to Him, 
to become a new man. 

The Bible uses for that the strongest expressions 
there are: You must di^^tfe ............. Christ .......... the ........ crucified 

One^and ^ 


must be broken; your pride, your conceit about your 
own existence and ability must be destroyed. And 
when you have ceased to trust in yourself, then you 
must put your trust in him as your helper and Re- 
deemer, as the One whom God has given to you in 
order to bind you with him and to re-create you in 
him. Only he who believes in this way may also say: 
though I die, yet shall I live, for Christ is my resur- 
rection and my life. 

Dear friends the most certain thing we know 
about our future is that we must die, and that there- 
fore our life and everything that makes life worth- 
while for us will be destroyed. No beautiful words 
can change that. Death is the end. The question is 
whether there is beyond this end still a hope greater 
than everything that this earth has to give us. This 
hope the gospel of Jesus Christ alone offers us, every 
one of us. But it offers us it at a price: the price is 
that we believe in him. To believe in him, however, 
means quite simply to be his disciple. If you will be 

160 / Believe in the Living God 

his disciple, then take and receive what he promises 
you. If you really want to be his disciple, then there 
is no difficulty in receiving this. The difficulty lies 
only in whether you really want to be his disciple, 
whether you want to renounce your own rights and 
will. If that happens, then henceforth you know: He 
is my resurrection and my life. Amen. 

iC.cnfiniifil from front flap) 

The sermons were originally preached at 
Zurich during a particular time of crisis, 
but because of the nature of their theme, 
they" are appropriate to any time. In this 
English translation they will stir the hearts 
of everyone who reads them, while for min- 
isters and students they will serve as bright 
examples of how simple and persuasive and 
profound a sermon can and ought to be. 

EMIL BRUNNER, one of today's greatest 

theologians, was made Privatdocent at the 
University of Zurich at the age of thirty- 
three, and two years later was appointed 
Professor of Systematic and Practical The- 
ology. Dr. Brunner has lectured at many 
universities in Europe and America. In 1953 
he became Professor of Christian Ethics 
and Philosophy at the International Chris- 
tian University, Tokyo, Japan, and in 1955 
returned to Zurich. Two of his other books 
are listed on the back cover, 

JOHN HOLDEN, the translator and edi- 
tor, has received degrees at seminaries and 
universities both in this country and 
abroad. Since 1958 he has been associate 
pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Valpa- 
raiso, Indiana.